COLUMNS

From Waste to Resources: SWACO grants help fund waste-diversion programs

TY MARSH
Ty Marsh

Most people know that SWACO operates the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill.

However, we're just as committed to keeping waste out of the landfill as we are to managing the waste that goes into it. In fact, we've helped the county reach the point where we now are recycling more than half of the waste material created by residents and businesses.

But we don't want to stop there.

We're aiming to reach 75% diversion by 2032, which is why many of our programs and services focus on recycling, composting and other activities that divert waste from the landfill. This includes our grants program.

SWACO offers two competitive grants, which are designed to promote and support recycling and other waste-diversion initiatives in Franklin County.

Our Event Waste Reduction Grant reimburses organizations for their efforts to minimize waste generated at events through recycling, reducing and reusing.

Our Community Waste Reduction Grant is available to schools, communities, nonprofits and government entities to help fund waste reduction and diversion programs.

This year, we awarded 15 Community Waste Reduction Grants totaling $201,873. That's the highest number of grants we've awarded -- and the most money awarded -- since we overhauled and reintroduced our longstanding grants program in 2015.

These numbers are a testament to our community's collective desire to be better stewards of the environment.

Interestingly, more than half of the grant recipients we selected intend to reduce residential or commercially generated food waste.

These projects align with SWACO's efforts to cut food waste in half over the next decade and reflect our community's increasing commitment to reducing food waste.

We're excited about this trend, considering food waste is the top item, based on weight, thrown away in Franklin County and, as such, presents one of the biggest opportunities for waste diversion.

Here are the creative and interesting ways our grant recipients are using Community Waste Reduction Grants:

* The cities of Dublin, Hilliard, Upper Arlington and Westerville each are establishing or increasing the number of food-waste drop-off locations. Dublin's planned drop-off location is expected to serve up to 500 households and divert about 78,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill each year.

* A Reynoldsburg junior high school will establish a food-waste-composting program that turns cafeteria waste into compost for the school's gardens.

* Local Matters will provide hands-on nutrition and food-waste education and install a composting system capable of creating 100 pounds of compost each week, which will be used to nourish plants in its community gardens.

* The PAST Foundation will update its Garbology 2.0 curriculum used for teaching students in grades 5 through 12 about waste reduction, recycling and composting.

* Columbus Public Health is creating a food-waste-donation guide for restaurants and other businesses that serve food in Columbus.

* Food Rescue US will enhance its app to allow food donors to register available food, social-service agencies to communicate their food and delivery needs and volunteers to sign up to assist with rescuing and redistributing excess food.

* Habitat for Humanity will purchase a new truck to collect donations, which will help divert an estimated 696 tons of usable material from the landfill.

* Columbus City Schools will install water-bottle-filling stations in 31 buildings with no air-conditioning, with the goal of cutting the use of disposable water bottles in half.

* The Furniture Bank of Central Ohio purchased reusable bulk-collection containers to collect, store and transport household items so they can be distributed to families in need instead of thrown in the garbage.

* LifeCare Alliance purchased 10 recycling-sorting stations for use at its three facilities.

* Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is purchasing new recycling containers and signs to increase employee and visitor recycling.

* Franklin Township will purchase new recycling stations for its administration offices and its police and fire stations.

We're proud to be helping organizations and communities implement sustainable practices that protect the environment and ensure the long-term viability of the landfill. After all, the less material we put into the landfill, the longer it will last.

SWACO is accepting applications for its 2021 grant cycle until 5 p.m. Aug. 28. We invite schools, nonprofits and public entities to apply. The application form is available on swaco.org under the "Diversion" section.

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.