Recycling: A Double-Edged Sword?

Listen to the Story

The Franklin County landfill is not as trashy as it has been in the past, and part of that is because more people are doing just want they’ve been asked: recycle. But less garbage means less money on which to run operations. So the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio is considering accepting out-of-town waste as a way to boost revenue.

For years SWACO employees like that one have been teaching students and others to reduce, reuse and recycle in an effort to extend the life of Franklin County’s landfill. And people have been paying attention. John Schnell places some recyclables in a bin in Goodale Park. Schnell’s an avid recycler.

“For lasting generations, I guess. You know, for the prosperity of the Earth,” Schnell said.

There are more than 200 of these drop box locations around Franklin County. SWACO’s John Remy says recycling at drop off locations increased 85 percent during the last four or five years.

“In 2008, the increase was 21 percent. That amounts to about 13,000 tons we collected at the drop off locations last year,” Remy said.

And the curb side recycling service in the city of Columbus has increased. From 2006 to 2007 the trash hauling company Rumpke saw a 15 percent increase in recycling. And a five percent increase the following year. Rumpke’s Jonathan Kissell said it collected 13,515 tons since 2006 form the curb service alone.

“We’ve also seen an increase in the drop box participation which the drop off boxes is a SWACO program and that material is transported to Rumpke’s facility,” Kissell said.

More than 32,000 tons have been picked up in drop boxes over the last three years. Kissell said the program has been very successful.

“We’re encouraged by the statistics we’ve seen with increase over the past three years. That’s very good in our eyes. We certainly have the capability to improve,” he said. Trash falls from a large truck into a pit at the landfill.

SWACO’s Remy said the amount of garbage hauled in was down 26,000 tons last year. And it’s down 10 percent so far this year. Since SWACO is not state or federally funded, it gets its money to run operations from the fee it charges per ton to use the landfill.

Remy said the landfill’s tonnage has been down for several years. Like other companies, SWACO makes projections every year – on how many tons of garbage it thinks it will get.

“We came underneath that tonnage. And that is a problem. Would you chalk that up to your recycling program? Some of the reduction is due to the good efforts on a part of folks in Franklin County recycling. Primarily most of it is due to the economy we believe,” Remy said.

So SWACO is considering in its words a “short term fix” – accepting waste from other counties. “Bring your trash over here.”

But not all counties. Just the ones nearby, like Pickaway County. Remy said trash in Pickaway goes to a landfill in Cincinnati or maybe Logan County. He said bringing it here would save Pickaway County money. And it would help fund SWACO’s operations.

Remy would not predict how he thinks SWACO trustees will vote next month on the proposal, but he said he thinks they’re torn.

“Uh…wait a minute, we tell everybody to save landfill space, but, hey, we’ve gotta get enough trash in here to cover expenses and everything,” Remy said.

Back at Goodale Park John Schnell, the avid recycler, is not a fan of SWACO’s proposal.

“I’m not a big believer in bringing in other people’s trash you know to generate money. I’m sure we generate enough here in Columbus that we don’t need to bring in other people’s refuse,” Schnell said.

If the plan is approved SWACO said it will only accept enough trash to balance out its finances.