Oxford Seeks Waste Management Alternatives

By Julia Arwine

Oxford is looking for a better way to take out its trash.

The city’s contract with Rumpke Waste Management is up for renewal this year, said Chantel Raghu, city council’s representative on the Oxford Environmental Commission. The commission is considering ways to direct solid waste away from Rumpke’s Hughes Road landfill in Colerain Township.

A council staff report on the Butler County Solid Waste Management Plan shows that Oxford’s current rate of refuse is not sustainable for long. The Colerain Township landfill is only 11 to 12 years away from reaching its capacity, and expanding it will only buy about another 40 years.

“Oxford’s residential refuse volume has averaged approximately 5,000 tons over the last two years,” the report reads.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the district to work toward its statewide goals, among them to “reduce/recycle at least 25 percent of the waste generated by the residential/commercial sector” and “provide education, outreach and technical assistance” on waste management methods.

According to Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District, the average person in Butler County generates 9.9 pounds of waste per day; 65 percent of this comes from the residential and commercial sector. Only 14 percent of all waste is recycled, one percent is composted, and the rest is disposed.

The environmental commission seeks to incentivize waste reduction and increase recycling. Raghu suggested the latter could be done by raising awareness of what exactly can be recycled. For example, plastic bottles can only be recycled if their tops are not wider than their bottoms. Rumpke sells its recyclables to manufacturers, so some items are not reusable, while some can only be reused once.

According to the Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District, the average person in Butler County generates 9.9 pounds of waste per day, 65 percent of which comes from the residential and commercial sector. Only 14 percent of all waste is recycled and 1 percent is composted. The rest is disposed.

Anne Flaig, director of the Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District, suggested that the rate of commercial recycling could be increased through the participation of the Oxford Chamber of Commerce and other local businesses. The environmental commission is considering instituting “pay as you throw,” or volume-based, charges for trash to incentivize commercial recycling, although this idea has not been set into motion yet.

Raghu and Oxford resident Carla Blackmar are also working to address waste created by the unsolicited delivery of newspapers and advertisements in plastic bags. Blackmar heads a citizen group dedicated to picking up litter — including the aforementioned deliveries — around town. The group is called #Take3Oxford and can be found on Facebook. At an August environmental commission meeting, Blackmar offered a few possible solutions to reduce litter, including requiring that residents opt in to these deliveries rather than opt out.

Raghu’s research into the issue has found that the deliveries could be regarded as commercial speech rather than free speech and could thus be regulated.

To stop the deliveries, Raghu said, “[we need to] work with the company and tell the company that, ‘Hey, as a community, we don’t want this.’”

Composting, including curbside composting, could also help improve waste disposal here. Curbside composting would involve residents putting their food and yard waste into a separate container that would be taken to a local or regional composting site. The finished compost may then be sold or otherwise distributed by the contractor.

The Ohio EPA has 21 food composting facilities across the state, nine of which are private and 12 of which are public. Raghu plans to meet with the Ohio EPA and a composting operation from Richmond, Indiana, about bringing a trial composting program to Oxford.

“We’re trying to roll that out in the next couple of years,” Raghu said. “If we can reduce the amount of food waste that goes into the landfill, there’s less methane production and you’re saving space.”