Kicking trash and taking names

Every success reducing waste, from food scraps to trash, reflects the efforts of real people who want to make a difference.

Utility Maintenance Person Julana Eakin brings her own food scraps from home and contributes them to the composting bin at her worksite. Since she began doing this at Westerly several years ago, now coworkers have begun doing the same.

Americans send mountains of garbage to our landfills: 292.4 million tons of it in 2018, the most recent year for which the Environmental Protection Agency offers data. That year, each person in the U.S. generated an average of nearly five pounds of municipal solid waste, or MSW, every day.

MSW encompasses everything we throw away — paper products, textiles, food, plastics, glass, metal, and more. And the landfills where our trash winds up are a big problem, sending greenhouse gases into the air, contaminating soil and water, taking up acres upon acres of space.

But as individuals and organizations, we can stop being so trashy.

Reducing waste

The Sewer District works hard to decrease our garbage output by carefully managing resource use and engaging in an expanding range of recycling efforts. Following the recent solar eclipse, for example, we set up boxes to collect eclipse glasses at every Sewer District facility.

In 2021, we added on-site food-scrap collection to our waste-reduction efforts, partnering with Rust Belt Riders to launch a composting program at our administration building in Cleveland. Rust Belt Riders accepts food waste from individuals and organizations, composting it and turning it into nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Today, our composting program is District-wide, mainly because employees were personally committed and drove it forward at every Sewer District location.

Taking initiative

Julana Eakin, an Instrument Tech In Training who worked at the Westerly Wastewater Treatment plant for five years, began saving her own food scraps before we had a composting program there. One day, she decided to stick a five-gallon ice cream bucket into the freezer at work and started filling it with her own scraps, which she took home every week to compost.

She was astonished — and delighted — when colleagues began spontaneously putting their own food waste in. Conversations over lunch ensued, and more people started adding to the bucket. When Julana learned the Sewer District had launched a pilot composting program at our administration building, she reached out to the Sustainability team “and the rest is history,” she says.

Collaborating toward a shared goal

Kevin Fitzgibbons, a Project Coordinator on the Sewer District’s Stormwater Inspection & Maintenance team, helped launch the composting program at our Environmental & Maintenance Services Center in Cuyahoga Heights, starting with a single bucket in the lunchroom.

There are now three buckets located around the facility. “I’ve even heard of people bringing scraps in from home to get them composted,” he says.

Growing the composting program was a collaborative effort, Kevin says, and Sustainability & Special Projects Specialist Kevin Harrison agrees. He says the program could not have expanded as it has or been as successful as it is (capturing 9,000 pounds of food waste to date) without the coordination of many individuals and our Sustainability Employee Resource Group, as well as Administrative and Analytical Services.

Individual commitment. Shared effort. That’s how we move forward in everything we do.



Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Official Medium channel of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in Cleveland, OH