There’s something you may not know about your Columbus recycling. Since the inception of the city’s curbside program, many thousands of tons of waste have avoided the landfill and instead gone on to be turned into new aluminum, plastic, and cardboard products. For the most part, the program has found success in the state capitol. However, what you might not be aware of is that not all of that refuse is actually being recycled. Of the million or so pounds of waste that Rumpke receives every day in Columbus, about a tenth of it still ends up in landfills. Specifically coffee pods, laundry baskets, margarine tubs, yogurt and more all get sorted out of the recycling bins and get shipped off to an area landfill.

According to the city, just over 70% of households in Columbus are recycling with the new system that rolled out three years ago. That’s over 200,000 blue bins across the city. So while the new initiative to get residents recycling has seen success on the surface, there is still some room for improvement. The environmental steward in the mayor’s office, Erin Miller, hopes to start recycling pickup once a week instead of every other week. But with more frequent pickups, will we just see a larger increase in potential recyclables going to the landfill?

How do you recycle the un-recyclable? The onus unfortunately falls squarely on Rumpke and other waste haulers. Companies that deal directly with waste of all sorts must continue to invest in new recycling technology and techniques to tackle this particular waste problem and to work towards a zero-waste future. But even if new technology allows us to recycle more waste, how do you get a city of over 820,000 to start separating their different types of recyclables? How do you inform all of those people about what can and cannot be recycled from a group of debris that everyone considers recyclable? This is especially tricky given that many of these items state on their packaging that they are able to be recycled. One idea would be to provide residents with yet another bin, with pictures on it to show what goes in there and what goes in the blue bin they already own.

But then the problem turns into keeping people from getting frustrated with the whole system and going back to tossing everything out with the trash. So is a 10% landfill rate with recyclables acceptable? Should residents take it upon themselves to separate out these unrecyclable recyclables? Or is it the responsibility of Rumpke and other companies to find a better recycling solution that takes these items into account? It’s a tricky situation in Ohio’s capitol, and one that will only gain more attention as more and more people become aware of where their trash & recyclables go.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

Image Source: Wagga Wagga City Council