Southwest project goes green

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Business is greening up in southwestern Franklin County with the start of a project to build new operations to create energy and other products through recycled items.

Work has already begun on site preparation on land along the east side of I-71 near State Route 104 to create a green business park.

"We believe this can be the start of a template where there will be green business parks all over Columbus," said John Remy, a spokesman for the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO).

This would be the first green business park in the county, Remy said.

Shelly Company, a limestone mining firm headquartered in Thornville, has already begun work by using dirt from its adjacent limestone operations to fill in 10 acres of land at the former Columbus Waste To Energy Facility behind SWACO’s Jackson Pike Transfer Station.

When Shelly pulls out the limestone, they get a lot of fill, Remy said, adding that they use it to fill in the big holes.

"They keep the limestone and everyone benefits," he said.

With this agreement, Shelly will pay SWACO mineral rights for the rock mined from the property, which could be about $1.5 million. That money will go toward retiring the City of Columbus debt on the WTEF facility. SWACO leases the site from the city.

This fill project is expected to be completed by fall when Rastra and Kurtz Brothers plan to break ground for their businesses.

Rastra plans to make building materials from recycled polystyrene (styrofoam) while Kurtz plans an operation that would use organic wastes, such as yard waste, for energy. Both facilities have an estimated construction schedule of 18 months.

Also benefiting from these operations is the local economy. Shelly is protecting jobs of 300 workers, while Rastra’s operations could employ as many as 50 workers and Kurtz could have five to seven new employees.

Rasta is not new to central Ohio although it is headquartered in Austria with a North American office in the Phoenix, Ariz., area. Rastra is the company that built the environmentally friendly house at the Columbus Zoo, Remy recalled.

"The walls of that house are made from Rastra products," Remy said. "Children saved the styrofoam food trays and we sent them to Austria where they were ground up and sent back the building products."

Styrofoam and other polystyrene products will come from trucks currently dumping into the Franklin County Landfill. These products are slow at breaking down and take up a lot of space in the landfill. Remy said there is a movement afoot to ban those products from the landfill.

"What they are shooting for is the big dedicated loads of polystyrene that goes to landfills," he said. "We get five to six truckloads coming in daily. There are companies in town that package products and have leftover styrofoam."

Those products take up 6 percent of the landfill space a year, he said.

Kurtz, a Cleveland-based company, has a composting facility in central Ohio. When this new facility is operational, it would take yard waste and accelerate the decomposition process and turn it into methane. That methane would be used to power generators to make electricity. That electricity, Remy said, could be sold into an energy grid, and there is some talk about it being used to power its new neighbor Rastra.

"We believe in putting the land back to use through reuse and recycling to create green jobs," Remy said.

With what is being done at this location "we hope to replicate the idea with other municipalities and have these green business parks."

Meanwhile, Shelly is doing its part in recycling. In addition to using the fill dirt it compiles during excavation processes, Shelly uses recycled oil and recycled asphalt. With those two products, it can create 276 miles of a one-lane highway with no added costs to the taxpayer. That is equivalent of one lane of highway from Cincinnati to Cleveland with a couple of roadside rest areas.

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