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By 2030, SWACO Wants To Cut Central Ohio Food Waste In Half

A view from the top of the SWACO landfill.
Thomas Bradley
/
WOSU
A view from the top of the SWACO landfill.

Last year, 152,000 tons of food waste was sent to the landfill in Central Ohio. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) is announcing an action plan to cut that number in half by 2030.

A coalition of public and private partners - including non-profits, local schools, and the Ohio EPA - have been working on the three-part plan for a year. Their proposal focuses on three prongs: prevent, rescue, and recycle.

The first component includes an education effort for consumers, restaurants, and students. It also promises legislative advocacy around expiration date labeling, so edible food doesn't get unnecessarily pitched.

Project lead Kyle O'Keefe says while 192 million meals are landfilled a year, Franklin County residents miss 69 million meals at the same time.

"Rescue basically means, how can we feed with the food that's still edible, that we might, if we don't eat it in time, throw it away," he says. "Can we rescue it from restaurants, from school cafeterias, different institutions and get it to people in our community that need food?"

Sometimes the food can't be saved, though, and O'Keefe says that's where recycling comes in.

"We're using the word 'recycle' as kinda a catch-all for other uses for that material," he says. "For example, one of the greatest uses is to feed animals."

He adds SWACO is conducting a feasbility study to determine the best infrastructure for composting in the region. But O'Keefe says ultimately, the biggest area for change is on the individual level, from better planning to taking advantage of the kitchen garbage disposal.

"You actually have the greatest impact when we change our behaviors as individuals and families," he says.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.