In 2013, Lorain County, Ohio identified Zero Waste planning as a priority focus. As part of that county, the City of Oberlin agreed to develop its own Zero Waste Plan (ZWP) and serve as a pilot community for this process. This is the first Zero Waste plan in the state of Ohio.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Commission, a citizen advisory board in the city, played a key role in developing the ZWP and will continue to advise City staff on the plan implementation.
Oberlin College makes up a significant portion of the city’s population and was another instrumental partner in developing the plan. The city provides trash and recycling services to the college.
A big driver for the Zero Waste plan is the climate commitment of the city and college. Oberlin College one of first colleges and universities to adopt a goal of climate neutrality; the city has a goal of becoming “climate-positive” by reducing greenhouse gas emissions below zero by 2050. Oberlin is one of only three U.S. cities in the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Positive Development Program.
Oberlin’s Zero Waste Plan is intended to help the city reach 90% diversion by 2050. The plan focuses on programs and policies to meet these three goals:
The plan specifically excludes incineration as a Zero Waste strategy.
The city provides recycling and trash collection to all residents, businesses and the college. The first priority action in the ZWP was to switch to single-stream recycling collection in wheeled carts.
Recycling participation became mandatory in 2015.
A food waste collection pilot program is planned for 2020 with a full-scale food waste collection program by 2022.
Another short-term action is the formation of “green teams” at institutions and businesses that would work with the city to develop waste reduction strategies in their organizations. City staff may provide suggestions, technical assistance, volunteers, and funding to support green teams’ Zero Waste goals.
Oberlin plans to reassess and update the ZWP every five years. This includes looking at diversion rates and evaluating the success of programs.
The city had a 29% diversion rate when the plan was developed.
Since beginning cart-based curbside recycling service at the end of 2014 (as called for in the ZWP), Oberlin reports a 30% increase in the amount of recyclable materials collected.