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Ohio recognizes the triple-bottom line

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/30/10 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Recycle

Do recent moves by Ohio indicate a willingness to adapt to 'triple-bottom line' economic development?

First, Ohio raised the bar for recycling- setting a goal of 25% for municipal (residential and commercial) and 66% of industrial waste. And today Senator Sherrod Brown announced new legislation that would "spur research on potential offshore wind projects, expand incentives for offshore wind development, and require the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a comprehensive roadmap for the deployment of offshore wind"- giving a boost to the Lake Erie wind farm pilot project (more about that in a later post).

The new recycling goal moves the dial slightly above the 2001 standard (25% municipal and 60% industrial) with a new combined rate of 50%. In Ohio, recycling has been a boon for business. In fact, a 2001 report, "Ohio Recycling Economic Information Study," issued by Ohio Department of Natural Resources noted that recycling has been a billion-dollar success story for the state. Back then, the industry generated $22.5 billion in direct sales annually, employed more than 100,000 people and accounted for $650.6 million in state tax revenues.

Ohio is a leader in both employment and sales derived from recycling – in 2001, it was our third largest industry with more than 98,000 Ohioans working directly in the recycling industry, sorting recyclables, operating machinery and manufacturing end-products. Even in good economic times, though, Ohio's total recycling rate decreased – from 44.1 percent in 2001 to 40.7 percent in 2007. It won't be easy in these tough economic times to reach a combined municipal/industrial 50%, but on the bright side, it may jumpstart an industry.

For years, less affluent, more rural counties of Ohio where offering recycling is expensive stalled any plans to increase the state's standards. Even though the Cleveland area already meets the state standard with a combined 50% recycling rate, we are not among the national leaders in recycling and waste reduction. Cities like Portland have been setting aggressive targets (75% combined) to increase recycling.

Will Ohio's new goal get cities talking seriously again about adopting new recycling practices? The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District Plan has called for building a centrally located, publicly owned materials recovery facility (MRF) to increase recycling, but it hasn't gone anywhere. The district would need to raise fees on cities to pay for it-are cities in Cuyahoga County willing to adopt a new fee, from $1/ton to $2/ton, to build a publicly owned MRF?

The new standard and OEPA's promise to "investigate streamlined rules to permit and operate waste-to-energy facilities" certainly gives credence to Cleveland's decision to pursue building a MRF and municipal waste-to-energy plant.

"By disposing of waste we squander resources," OEPA Director Chris Korleski writes. "Luckily, we can do more to divert waste into better management programs. Food waste and other organics can be composted; more paper and other fiber can be collected; waste can be used as alternative fuel sources. Making these options realities, however, requires Ohio's citizens, government officials, community leaders, solid waste management districts, solid waste professionals, and the business community to work together cooperatively, now more than ever, to create success in these tough economic times."

Two more ways Ohio has stimulated the market for recycling: The state offers millions of dollars in grants to municipalities and county solid waste districts for recycling programs. The state also passed a law where agencies are permitted to purchase recycled-content products when those products are no more than five percent more expensive than a comparable non-recycled content product (In fiscal years 2000 through 2006, state agencies purchased a combined total of more than $11 million worth of recycled-content products).

You can do your part: April is recycle your computer month. Computers collected during Recycle Your Computer Month will be refurbished by Cleveland non-profit RET3 and distributed to local schools by One Community, through its Green Computing Program. Older computers not suitable for refurbishing will be de-manufactured and recycled locally. For more information about this and many other special recycling programs, visit the county solid waste district site.

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