In Franklin County, we often talk about what we can do collectively to effectively manage our waste stream to create a healthier, more sustainable community for all.
But just as important as the residents who take steps to properly recycle, compost or reduce their overall carbon footprint are the esteemed men and women who collect and transport our waste and recycling and who go to great lengths to ensure the safe management and efficient waste management in our community.
Did you know that solid waste collection is the sixth deadliest job in the United States, which makes it a more dangerous profession than first responders? In fact, on average, a collection worker dies every 1.5 weeks in the United States, and the number has been increasing every year since 2009.
Without these precious workers, the health and well-being of our neighborhoods and our planet would be at risk, and we simply could not dream of achieving our community goal of diverting 75% of waste from landfills here. 2032.
Putting safety first is a mantra at SWACO.
In fact, last month we hosted a series of awareness events at the county landfill and SWACO transfer stations, where we invited waste and recycling haulers and landfill operators to take a commitment to safety in partnership with the Solid Waste Association of North America. This pledge called for a commitment to protect themselves and others from harm, with the promise to help “everyone come home safely every day.”
But as members of the community, you too can do your part by being safe on the road. This involves slowing down or moving when approaching or preparing to overtake a waste transport or recycling truck, whether in transit or being collected.
This includes making sure that you do not put hazardous materials in your recycling, as these materials can also put these workers at risk of injury. Did you know that rechargeable batteries can explode or catch fire if not disposed of properly, making them dangerous for workers in the waste industry? In April 2021, the Rumpke Columbus sorting center reported seven fires caused by batteries.
â¢ Recycling advice: Never put batteries of any kind whatsoever in household recycling.
Fortunately, residents of Franklin County have alternatives to putting lithium-ion batteries into their home recycling. In fact, SWACO offers residents free recycling of household hazardous waste. For instructions on how to dispose of batteries of all types, visit recycleright.org/recycle-reuse-search-tool/.
Our people are our most important assets. The next time you find yourself on the road or decide to recycle something, put the safety of our employees first. Drive carefully, make room for collection workers, and consider waving to them in whatever they are doing to make Franklin County a sustainable place to live and work. And don’t forget to recycle properly.
As always, SWACO cannot do the work we do without your support. Thank you, Central Ohio, for helping to make our community a more sustainable place to live.
Ty Marsh is Executive Director of SWACO. Questions about its operations can be directed to [email protected] His office provides this column to News from the community this week.