skip to Main Content

Ohio Program Spotlights The Power Of Composting For Residents

The suburbs of Columbus, OH, are undergoing a cultural shift. Awareness about composting and proper trash disposal is needed to counter the nearly 1 million pounds of food waste entering landfills daily. To do this, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) formulated a creative plan: teach composting at the home level. The trickle-up effect is working well. 

According to the ReFED nonprofit, households account for 39% of food waste in the U.S. As a result, more methane emissions are generated in landfills, while food insecurity remains an issue. According to the EPA, 2.6 million tons of food were composted in 2018. While that shows a commitment to the practice, Americans still struggle with consuming and over-purchasing groceries.

Getting an area like central Ohio to compost more has been tricky, but SWACO’s Save More Than Food campaign is making strides. The program explains why food shouldn’t be sent to landfills and offers uses for unwanted items, including donations to organizations and animal feed for farmers. The waste management administration also uses social media and a toolkit to help share the campaign promoting healthy disposal habits. 

Video Courtesy Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio – SWACO

Shining the light on the monetary losses from waste was crucial for bringing in Columbus residents. According to the campaign website, the average Central Ohio family of four spends $2,000 on uneaten food annually.

SWACO also suggests meal prep, creating a list and shopping more frequently, freezing leftovers if they aren’t eaten promptly, and storing items properly. 

“Leftovers and spoiled produce make up the majority of what individuals throw out,” said Kyle O’Keefe, SWACO’s director of innovation and programs. “Families can easily save money and keep unnecessary food waste out of a landfill by making small improvements in the way they manage food.”

Resonating with adults is not easy. In addition to the campaign, SWACO wanted to connect with another demographic that would be more open to changing their habits — elementary students. At lunchtime in local schools, aides help children throw out their garbage correctly. Food waste goes into compost, plastics and glass go into the recycle bin, and paper items can go to landfill. 

Kids can be influential when around their families. SWACO identified this, believing if they were telling their parents about the benefits of composting, more people would take up the effort.  

Photo Courtesy Pawel Czerwinski

The results of the Save More Than Food project have been pretty positive so far. A study, which is undergoing peer review, found that SWACO’s initiative led to a 23% decline in thrown-away food — even with the national average of food waste increasing to 29%. That number could drop with more centralized composting and donation programs. 

“We know this campaign works and works for this community,” said Brian Roe, leader of the study. Whether it can work with other communities remains to be seen. 

Other parts of the country are pushing the importance of donations to decrease waste footprints. It keeps perfectly edible items out of landfills and into the hands of those who need them. In California, a two-tier law requires businesses, like grocery stores and food service providers, to donate to recovery organizations helping those experiencing food insecurity. Failure to do so results in fines. 

Composting and donation are crucial, but they aren’t the only practices needed for more urban areas to eliminate food waste. Producing something that will not be eaten or tossing out unwanted items also needs to be addressed, requiring a change in the production system. However, SWACO’s campaign is a good example of how city authorities can influence citizens to make better trash management decisions. 

Share on Social

Back To Top