SWACO partnering with The Ohio State University and City of Upper Arlington to study's food waste campaign's impact

Dec. 15, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) is one of three organizations that recently received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support sustainable materials management projects in Ohio. Sustainable materials management, according to the U.S. EPA, is a systematic approach to use and reuse materials through a product's entire life cycle to minimize environmental impacts, conserve resources and reduce costs.

“EPA is pleased to support the work of the Center for EcoTechnology, RTI International, and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio as they work towards increasing the use of recycled materials and reducing food waste,” said EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “These projects serve as examples that through local collaborations we can improve resource conservation, create stronger and more resilient recycling systems, and spur economic growth.”

The U.S. EPA awarded the $60,000 grant to SWACO in support of its work to reduce food waste in the Columbus region. Specifically, the grant will be used to measure the baseline of food waste behaviors and outcomes in a Central Ohio community and subsequently explore how the campaign changes behaviors to reduce food waste as well as the effectiveness of “Save More Than Food,” an awareness campaign to educate consumers about food waste and how to prevent it. SWACO launched the campaign in September in partnership with the 150+ organizations and businesses in Central Ohio that make up the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative.

The EPA grant is the second national recognition SWACO has received for its work surrounding food waste diversion. In October, the National Recycling Coalition named SWACO as the “Outstanding Recycling Organization for 2020” for outstanding growth of programs and impacts pertaining to food waste diversion.

“We believe the “Save More Than Food” campaign will help people understand the severity of the food waste problem in central Ohio and encourage them to reduce food waste in their own homes,” said Ty Marsh, SWACO’s Executive Director. “But the grant from the U.S. EPA will let us know for certain what type of impact the campaign has had.” 

SWACO is partnering with The Ohio State University and the City of Upper Arlington on this grant project.

OSU’s research team will develop and conduct resident surveys between February 1 and May 31, 2021, to find out if the campaign had an impact on residents’ views and behaviors regarding food waste. The team will also conduct a waste audit, where they’ll examine random samples of residential waste and separate it into categories to determine how much of it is food. OSU plans to compile and share the results of the surveys and waste audit by November 2021, creating a peer-reviewed manuscript for academic use and likely hosting webinars aimed at the consumer audience.

“We are excited for this partnership. It will allow us to understand how efforts in Central Ohio can inform campaigns around the country, and improve the sustainability of our food system,” said Professor Brian Roe, OSU Research Lead.

The City of Upper Arlington offers residents a composting program for food scraps and is part of ongoing efforts to reduce the waste that unnecessarily ends up at the landfill. The drop off composting program received assistance from SWACO and has grown to three drop-off locations and a total of 17 collection containers. To date, the program has collected over 70,000 pounds of food waste. As part of the SWACO and U.S. EPA funded project, SWACO will work with city officials and staff to communicate with residents about the surveys, conduct a waste audit and use “Save More Than Food” campaign materials to measure the impacts of the educational resources such as emails, newsletters, webinars and community events.

“Upper Arlington is proud of our ongoing Food Waste Composting program that has to date collected over 150,000 pounds of waste that would otherwise end up at the landfill,” said Jackie Thiel, Public Service Director. “This partnership and grant with SWACO and the Ohio State University will continue our efforts and bring additional awareness to the severity of the food waste problem in central Ohio.”

Grant-funded activities are already underway and will ramp up in 2021.

In closing, Director Marsh noted that, “The Columbus Region continues to be recognized as a leader in sustainability in both the Midwest and Ohio, and this grant is a testament to the work of so many tireless advocates who are part of the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s support of the Initiative and the Save More Than Food campaign will help the Columbus Region be a step closer to our goal to cut food waste in half by 2030.”

Residents can learn more about the grant and food waste diversion at SaveMoreThanFood.org