OPINION

From Waste to Resources: Collaboration continues to pay off in central Ohio

Ty Marsh
Guest columnist
SWACO

None of us need reminding that this month marks a year since Ohio’s first "stay-at-home" order went into effect.

We’ve weathered – and lost – a lot over the past year, and we’re not out of the woods.

However, President Joe Biden’s promise to provide 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office offers the hope of a brighter tomorrow.

Ty Marsh

Across central Ohio, first responders, health-care workers and teachers and school workers are receiving their vaccines. Many have taken to social media to celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief. To each, I say, “We see you, and we thank you."

Like these essential employees, the team at SWACO has worked to protect the public and environmental health of our community, too. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve shared with you the increase in the amount of waste being created.

During those early weeks, haulers like Rumpke Waste & Recycling, which serves most municipalities in central Ohio, had as much as a 30% increase in the waste material – the result of more people cleaning out garages, basements and closets and doing home-improvement projects.

With more than 75% of Franklin County’s landfill material having the potential to be diverted through reuse, recycling or composting, SWACO responded to the increase in waste by launching new programs, including Save More Than Food, and holding contact-free mobile collection events to help divert more materials from the landfill.

Now, as our community welcomes millions of doses of the vaccine, we also are faced with decisions about how to manage the packaging and coolers used to transport the vaccines.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require ultra-low freezing temperatures for storage, and manufacturers of expanded polystyrene (or “EPS” and often referred to as Styrofoam) across the U.S. are ramping up production to keep up with the demand.

Thankfully, these materials are 100% recyclable through specialized programs offered by local businesses, including Phoenix Recycling, Eco Development and Fabricated Packaging Materials right here in Ohio.

As is the central Ohio way, partners have come together to make sure that these materials are kept out of the landfill. Our local hospitals systems are reusing the EPS coolers for vaccine transport to and from vaccine clinics or returning them to the manufactures for recycling. 

This is good news for all of us. When we work together to recycle, we support jobs, conserve resources and protect the environment, while preserving landfill space, which our residents and businesses rely upon.

For information on correct ways to recycle at home or at work in Franklin County, go to RecycleRight.org.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about its operations may be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.