When it comes to waste management, Bowling Green smells of success.
The city’s waste diversion rate is up and the cost of recycling is down.
Amanda Gamby, the city’s sustainability and public outreach coordinator, presented the first half of 2022 waste diversion report to the council’s sustainability committee on Tuesday.
“That sounds like a lot of good news,” said committee chair, City Councilman Jeff Dennis.
The city’s waste diversion rate in 2021 is 39.2%, up from 38.5% in 2020 – and significantly above the national average of 32%.
Currently, municipal solid waste and recycling is collected curbside from just over 5,700 single and two-family homes in the city each week.
The material is taken to the Wood County landfill for disposal at a cost of $40 per ton. Along with recycling, since the start of 2020, according to Gamby’s report, all mixed recycling is delivered to a transfer station in Toledo and then transported to a material recovery facility operated by Republic Services Inc. in Oberlin.
“We keep doing it,” Gamby said of recycling. “It continues to work well. We continue to operate with the expanded list of materials which expanded the list of plastics we were allowed to take…and of course allows us to take glass back from the curb.
Instead of a flat rate, the city is charged per ton for recycling, which fluctuates on a monthly basis, but the cost averages $100/ton, a decrease of $30/ton from the same period last year, according to the report.
Gamby said that in 2020, with schools closed and working from home, the city saw five-year highs in tonnage collected for municipal solid waste and recycling. Municipal solid waste tonnage in 2020 topped 5,086 tons, while recycling topped 999 tons.
However, both tonnages declined in 2021 – municipal solid waste tonnage fell to just over 4,569 tonnes, the lowest in recent years. So far this year, municipal solid waste tonnage is down 3.7% from the same period in 2021, and recycling tonnage is down 3.2%.
The question is, Gamby said, whether these cuts are real cuts or not. There are a lot of anomalies due to the 2020 data and the pandemic, she said.
“We’ll see what the next six months continue to show as to where we end up at the end of the year,” she said.
On waste contaminating recyclables, Gamby said all curbside vans are equipped with cameras and drivers report violations daily.
“These are tracked and notices/educational materials are mailed out,” the report read. “Visits/checks of bins are carried out for repeat offenders if necessary. When multiple education attempts fail, civil warnings/citations are issued,” but these situations are minimal.
All households benefiting from the selective collection service receive an annual mailing reminding them of the list of items accepted in the recycling program.
The most reported issue continues to be bagged recyclables.
Gamby also spoke about the food waste drop-off site, which opened in March 2021. So far this year, the program has collected 12.5 tonnes, and it is estimated that it will divert 25-30 tonnes of food per year, at a cost of $5,500 to the city.
So far this year, brush collections in the city have numbered 898, with 755 collections. The April/May brush harvest yielded 72.65 tons. Yard waste deposit tonnage so far this year was just under 207 tonnes. A total of 283 Christmas trees were collected.
Gamby also updated the committee on the city’s climate action plan efforts. The city is now a member of the Local Governments for Sustainability organization and has used its ClearPath tool, which municipalities can use to formulate their greenhouse gas emissions inventory, using predefined calculators.
A draft inventory was created and sent to a technical adviser, Gamby said, “and we asked him to write some sort of review for us with his team.”
She said that in the inventory project, the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases in the city are water and wastewater treatment facilities.
“They are big consumers of electricity and, of course, natural gas, to heat the facilities,” Gamby said. “We take the hit for these because we own and operate these facilities.”
Asked about the issue by Dennis, she said they have implemented efforts regarding factory efficiency.
The second largest emissions by category come from city buildings and facilities, with the top three being the Municipal Court, the Bowling Green Police Division and the Administration Building.
The next phase of the planning effort will be to form a climate action planning committee. Gamby said they appear to be close to creating the group, which will be made up of internal and external stakeholders.