COLUMNS

From Waste to Resources: Businesses should consider sustainability when reopening

TY MARSH
Ty Marsh

Now that COVID-19 coronavirus restrictions are being lifted, businesses are reopening and employees are returning to work.

As part of the process, businesses are making the health and safety of employees and customers an even higher priority.

We applaud the measures businesses are taking to protect their workers and customers.

We know businesses will have to pause some sustainability practices as new health and safety protocols are implemented.

For example, instead of providing reusable glasses, coffee mugs and dishes in break rooms, companies might offer disposable cups and plates that can be tossed in the garbage. Many restaurants will switch from plastic-coated menus to single-use paper menus to minimize the spread of germs.

But there are things companies can do to remain environmentally responsible while protecting employees and customers.

I would like to share a few recommended practices. Although these suggestions are aimed at businesses, they also apply to households.

SWACO recently completed a study that showed three-fourths of the material thrown away in central Ohio has the potential to be recycled or composted, either now or with the implementation of new programs and services.

Central Ohio businesses and residents send 1 million pounds of food to the landfill every day – the most of any type of waste.

Instead of throwing away food, restaurants, grocery stores and other food-service companies may donate excess perishable food, a recommendation supported by both Columbus Public Health and Franklin County Public Health.

The food can be offered to furloughed employees, donated to food pantries or given to such nonprofits as Food Rescue US and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, which collect food donations and transport them to homeless shelters and hunger-relief agencies.

If you have questions about reducing food waste, email foodwaste@swaco.org.

In addition to donating food, recycling is another important activity for businesses and residents.

Business owners should restart recycling programs. For those who haven't had one, now is a good time to start.

Franklin County's recycling program accepts paper, cardboard, cartons, metal cans, plastic bottles and jugs and glass bottles and jars.

Central Ohio companies need recyclable materials to make such products as toilet paper, cardboard boxes and plastic packaging. By recycling, businesses and residents not only reduce their reliance on the landfill, they also support the 400 or so companies in central Ohio that rely on recyclables for their operations.

If your business doesn't have an on-site recycling program, you can take your recyclables to one of SWACO's 70 dropoff sites. Go to recycleright.org for a list of locations.

And finally, be sure to safely dispose of personal-protective equipment, such as gloves and masks. These items should be included with commercial trash and bagged securely to protect other employees and sanitation workers.

As we reopen our communities, I encourage you to start or continue sustainability practices that will benefit our environment and our economy.

Just a little bit of effort can make a big difference, especially in these tough times.

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