Food-waste recycling program has success in Westerville

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Leo Moidu was the first person to use Westerville's Park Meadow Road food-composting location in March.

Westerville residents are doing their part to divert food waste from landfills by participating in the city's food-waste-compositing program.

Kevin Weaver, Westerville public-services director, said the city's pilot program has been successful, and it is well on its way of meeting the goal to compost 10 tons of food waste this year.

Through the 2020 Community Waste Reduction Grant from the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, Westerville was awarded $9,240 late last year, Weaver said.

He said the grant covers 75% of the cost of the pilot composting program and up to $9,240 this year, and it helps to fund the vendor service of the carts for compostable materials. Weaver said 367 buckets have been provided to residents to date.

"We are down to fewer than 30 (to provide), but the bucket is not required for participation," Weaver said. "As of last week, residents have dropped off 22,400 pounds of compostable material."

Weaver said about 1,600 pounds of compostable materials are being dropped off per week.

Through the program, residents can place compostable items in marked 64-gallon receptacles at city facilities at 350 Park Meadow Road and 469 Westdale Ave. 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The containers are serviced weekly by Springfield-based GoZERO Services.

Weaver said there are four 64-gallon carts at Park Meadow Road and three carts at Westdale Avenue.

Because of the strong use at both locations, he said, the city is planning to increase both locations' capacity by one cart in the near future.

"The biggest thing that we are trying to get out to folks is that if they choose to use a bag, that they must be BPI certified," Weaver said. "No plastic bags may be placed in the carts."

Environmental club

Westerville's new program has received a boost from Emerson Elementary School families.

Emerson students Leo Moidu, now a third-grader, and Max Crites, now a fourth-grader, launched a school environmental club in March, and one of the first initiatives its seven members took on was to engage the Emerson community, both at home and school, to divert 2,000 pounds of food waste from landfills by Dec. 31.

"They actually exceeded their goal of 2,000 pounds (the last week of July) and are now at 2,200," said Colleen Moidu, Leo Moidu's mother and executive director of the Westerville Education Foundation. "They are predicting they will double their initial goal by the end of the year and hit 2 tons (4,000 pounds)."

She said Leo and Max, along with Tessa Aultman, a fifth-grader, and Liam Doan, a fourth-grader, lead this effort for Emerson.

"Thirty-four families composted and reported totals," Moidu said. "It's been a great way to do something valuable together while we are all apart."

Leo said students couldn't be together in school because of the COVID-19 coronavirus but they were able to do something good for the Earth while staying home.

"It felt wrong throwing away stuff that could help the environment," Tessa said. "It's helping to grow plants that keep living organisms alive."

Max said he helped start the club because he wanted to raise awareness about climate change, and this was a great way to start.

SWACO grants

Westerville is among 15 community projects to implement or improve waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting activities, as a result of SWACO awarding $201,873.31 in competitive-grant funding. The projects are in keeping with SWACO's mission to improve Franklin County's solid waste stream.

The projects include installing refillable water bottle stations in Columbus City Schools, putting recycling-sorting stations in facilities that serve the public, supporting permanent community drop-off locations for food waste and enhancing an app that connects organizations that have available food with organizations that need it.

"Interestingly, more than half of the projects this year aim to reduce residential or commercially generated food waste," said Ty Marsh, executive director at SWACO, in a press release. "This is a change from previous years and reflects our community's growing interest in and commitment to reducing food waste."

The July 28 announcement of SWACO's grant awards follows information released earlier this year documenting that food waste is the top item, by weight, thrown away in Franklin County and presents one of the biggest opportunities to divert more waste from the landfill.

In addition to SWACO's financial award, the grant program leverages an additional $127,265.07 in matching funds from grantees for a total investment of more than $329,000 by the community toward waste composting, recycling and waste reduction projects, according to a news release from SWACO. The grant projects must be completed on or before Dec. 31.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla