COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Recyclables could be collected weekly from curbsides across Columbus by the middle of 2023, doubling the city’s current schedule.
Mayor Andrew Ginther’s 2023 proposed general fund budget earmarks $6 million for increasing curbside recycling collection to once a week. The general fund proposal totals $1.14 billion, with other millions allocated to afterschool programs and housing projects.
Tim Swauger, administrator for the division of refuse, said the city believes the more frequent schedule will lead to a 25% to 40% increase in recyclables diverted from area landfills. Right now, Swauger said, if residents fill their blue carts to the brim every two weeks — or forget to lug them outside on pick-up day — they are generally not bringing the overflow to drop-off locations.
“When the carts get full, people start to throw their recycling away,” Swauger said.
Rob Taylor, grants and community development director at national nonprofit the Recycling Partnership, said that analysis is likely on par. Taylor said his nonprofit recommends cities that offer biweekly pick-up also provide residents with 95-gallon carts. Columbus primarily uses 64-gallon carts, according to Swauger.
“We have a sense that this means that the city’s recycling program underperforms for that reason,” Taylor said.
The switch to weekly could fix that imbalance, he said.
The Recycling Partnership works with local governments to push for residential curbside recycling programs, in part through grants. Both Columbus and some of its surrounding suburbs within the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio’s jurisdiction have received grants from the nonprofit for different programs related to diverting waste.
A number of suburbs surrounding the city already offer weekly recycling collection, but SWACO Executive Director Joe Lombardi said tackling curbside recycling in smaller, suburban communities can be more clear-cut.
“I’m very encouraged by what Mayor Ginther announced,” Lombardi said. “We think that will play right into our diversion goals, plus the city’s climate action goals.”
Franklin County’s most recent diversion rate — or how much waste was not sent to the landfill — stands at 51%, according to SWACO, which has set a 75% diversion rate goal by 2032.
Still, one diversion-related challenge that faces both Columbus and its surrounding suburbs is how recycling is tackled at multifamily properties, or residential properties with more than one housing unit. Swauger said many within city limits do not offer on-site recycling — and if they do, property owners often look to outside vendors.
The city, SWACO, and the Recycling Partnership piloted recycling at several multifamily properties starting in 2021.
“Less convenience means that more recyclables end up in the waste stream, and then on top of that, multifamily properties, when they do have recycling, a lot of times it’s shared,” Taylor said, adding that shared recycling containers increase the possibility of recyclables being contaminated by something that is not recyclable.
Beyond weekly curbside collection, another $2.1 million in Ginther’s proposed general fund budget is allocated to other waste and recycling efforts. That includes two drop-off convenience centers that would “properly dispose of hard-to-recycle items, food waste for compost, regularly scheduled hazardous waste collection, and bulk item drop off,” according to the proposal.