Wasting less: State fair turning green with plans to eliminate t

Patrons of Ohio Proud food stands in the Taste of Ohio Café can help keep the fairgrounds greener this year by participating in a pilot program designed to reduce waste.

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO) is partnering with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and agricultural commodities on a "Waste Less" campaign designed to eliminate the majority of trash generated by vendors and their customers in the food pavilion.

"We are excited to highlight recycling in the Taste of Ohio Café at this year’s fair," commented Ohio Expo Center and State Fair General Manager Virgil Stickler. "We are pleased to have great partners such as SWACO, ODNR, and Ohio’s Agricultural Commodities to make it all happen.

"The fair is a great place to showcase easy ways to adopt a green lifestyle. At this year’s fair, you can learn about recycling, water conservation, energy-saving tips, alternative energy and more."

Pavilion diners are served meals on biodegradable plates, along with biodegradable utensils and cups.

Blue trash bins located within the complex are for bottles and cans, green bins are for food refuse and the biodegradable products, and brown containers are for remaining trash.

The café – the first all-recyclable building at the fair – is utilizing recyclable or biodegradable materials in all service aspects, from food preparation to clean up. Catered affairs at the 2008 Ohio State Fair also use recyclable and biodegradable products.

"This pilot program is designed to show people just how much waste we create," said Ron Mills, SWACO executive director. "When we make a little extra effort, we can cut substantially the amount we throw away. I believe people will be amazed at just how little actual trash there really is when the ‘Waste Less’ program is followed."

In 2007, more than 806,300 people attended the fair and in 2006, the single-day attendance record was broken on Aug. 13 with 110,234 fairgoers – each contributing to mountains of trash generated throughout the 12-day run of the fair.

Last year, more than 4,000 pounds of leftovers were collected for composting at the Taste of Ohio café. The fair also recycles grass clippings, amounting to acres of yard waste reused in composting, mulch and soil additives.

"Waste Less" is an element of an ongoing effort to expand recycling at the Expo Center and fair. As part of a $100,000 ODNR grant, approximately 600 new blue recycling containers will be located near trash containers in high traffic areas on the fairgrounds.

In addition to SWACO’s "Waste Less" pilot program, all frying oil used in Ranahans, the Rhodes Center and main concession trailers will be collected and donated to Mount Vernon Nazarene College, which will use the oil to educate the public about bio-diesel fuel.

A new Hydro-Zone exhibit, located inside the OHIO gate, features a permanent pervious concrete drainage system. Water falling through the concrete is collected in underground pipes and pumped into above-ground storage tanks before being used to maintain surrounding landscape.

The Ohio Farm Bureau and Nationwide Insurance are offering information on recycling, conservation and preserving the earth at various booths within the Land and Living exhibit.

The United States Department of Agriculture is providing household energy-saving tips at its booth, in addition to a display of rainwater collection for water conservation.

Children can plant their own flower to take home and learn about the preservation of natural habitats.

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