SWACO Releases Plan to Cut Food Waste in Half by 2030
In September of 2018, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, otherwise known as SWACO, developed the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative to unite organizations in a common goal of reducing food waste in central Ohio.
The initiative, which includes more than 60 organizations, businesses, schools and nonprofits, came together to form solutions to prevent food waste, rescue and redistribute edible food, and recycle food through composting and other means. The food waste plan, unveiled in mid-May, is the result of the input and contributions made by these organizations.
Even before the initiative was established, central Ohio businesses and organizations were involved in food waste prevention and solutions, including the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Kroger and The Ohio State University, as well as the Ohio Restaurant Association and Ohio Grocers Association. The plan establishes a more coordinated approach to circumventing food waste.
The goal of reducing food waste in half by 2030 is the same goal set by the United Nations and later the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For its own approach, SWACO and partnering organizations outlined 20 projects and solutions to deal primarily with the prevention, as well as the rescue and recycling of food waste.
Solutions currently underway include the promotion of existing and ongoing services and programs, developing a consumer awareness campaign, and implementing food waste curricula and food diversion programs in Columbus City and Hilliard City Schools.
“We’re partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to test curriculum in their Food Waste Warrior Toolkit,” says Kyle O’Keefe, SWACO’s director of innovation and programs, who is leading the food waste project. “The toolkit has curriculum resources to address science, math, and beyond.”
Other solutions include improving expiration date labeling, establishing business incentives and tax deductions for food waste diversion, and conducting a feasibility study for a scalable composting facility — which already exists, though at a much smaller capacity.
There is also opportunity to support innovation and entrepreneurs in developing more unique solutions — which may include grants, competitions, business development assistance, and support for the research and testing of new applications and technologies.
“We’ll be looking to partner with others that are supporting innovation and entrepreneurial efforts in our region,” says O’Keefe.
In terms of numbers: 192 million meals are landfilled by Franklin County residents and businesses annually, while 69 million meals are missed by residents who go hungry. The economic loss from food waste in the county is estimated at $106 million.
Numerous misconceptions about food waste exist among individuals and businesses alike, leading to less opportunity for prevention and rescue.
“When we waste food we’re [wasting] all of the resources that went towards growing, harvesting, transporting, and preparing the food. This results in tremendous environmental impacts,” says O’Keefe. “We’re also landfilling food that could otherwise be used to feed people in our community.”
“Most individuals may not understand the economic, environmental, and social ramifications of wasted food, and what they can do to begin reducing the amount of food waste they generate,” he continues. “Awareness is the first step towards action.”
For more information on the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, the Central Ohio Food Waste Action Plan, or to find more resources on food waste prevention, visit COFWI.org.