Energy Matters Community Coalition, acting as fiscal agent for the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District’s (BCSWMD) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was a recipient of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM) Community Recycling Grant Program. The grant, awarded in April, will support waste diversion efforts at all four weekends of Ethnic Expo 2021, focusing on increasing recycling rates at the June 19th, August 28th, September 11th, and October 2nd events and piloting a zero-landfill event during the final cultural weekend on October 2, 2021.

Since 1983, the City of Columbus has hosted Ethnic Expo, an authentic cultural experience including food, entertainment, and a parade in downtown Columbus. The event draws over 30,000 people from Bartholomew County and surrounding communities and results in tons of waste added to our landfill, including a large amount of Styrofoam. In past years, the city has tried to increase recycling from the event but because of contamination most if not all of the waste still ended up in the landfill. Due to the pandemic, the plan this year is to host four smaller Saturday events, each focusing on a different culture.

The BCSWMD Citizens Advisory Committee is made up of community volunteers interested in educating the public on reducing the amount of trash that is deposited in our local landfill. The CAC is partnering with Energy Matters Community Coalition in the Ethnic Expo waste diversion efforts. Energy Matters Community Coalition is an organization of citizens in Columbus, Indiana focusing on public education and local actions that support sustainability, with a special emphasis on energy conservation and global warming.

The CAC will recruit local residents to serve as waste station volunteers for each event to help attendees appropriately sort their trash into recycling, landfill, and composting (October event only). The volunteers will weigh all recyclables and trash the first three weekends of events and weigh all recyclables, compostables, and trash for the final event to show how much waste was diverted from the landfill. It is projected that 1,400-3,200 pounds of materials will be diverted from the landfill.

Those who have attended public events in this county in the past know that a lot of trash is generated and not very much is recycled. “The waste just comes in too fast and many event attendees don’t understand which containers go in the trash and which go in the recycling,” said Kelly Geckler from the BCSWMD Citizens Advisory Committee. “This year we aim to make it easy for people, have enough well-marked bins, and have volunteers on site to help”. The CAC will have a presence at the four events on 4th Street: Juneteenth on June 19, followed by the Chinese Festival on August 28, the Ganesh Festival on September 11, and Fiesta Latina on October 2.

Columbus boasts a sophisticated population and already shows commitment to sustainability through the Columbus Recycles program. By continuing to develop event sustainability programs that yield credible, quantified results, it is hoped to boost the city’s image by demonstrating integrity and commitment to values. Attendees will feel like environmental heroes for participating in this green event and event planners will connect with millennials and Generation Z attendees, as well as more mature lifelong environmentalists, all of whom have high expectations for sustainability.

Through the waste diversion efforts, local residents will be educated on the Columbus Recycles program and how they can work to divert waste in their own homes, thereby decreasing the amount of waste that goes into the Bartholomew County landfill while improving local recycling rates.

For questions regarding this project or to find out how to volunteer, please contact Kelly Geckler, 812-371-2175.

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