Rumpke Recycling Facility in Columbus, OH

In my circle of friends, you have heard me talk about Rumpke and my comments haven’t always been that fond.   We have a subscription service with Rumpke to pick up our recycling curbside every Thursday.  It’s worth it to us to pay for this service because we want to recycle but with our busy schedules need the convenience of curbside pickup.  Although the relationship has been rocky, I think I am ready to clear the slate and have a fresh start.  For now.

Rumpke will be the new waste and recycling hauler for the Zero Waste operations at the Ohio State University for this upcoming football season.  I was skeptical going into the planning meeting with Rumpke but the representative gave me pause.  To say the least, this gentleman was impressive.  He listened to our obstacles and played an active part in identifying solutions.  He exceeded my expectations and that’s not something that happens very often.  This guy wasn’t being a vendor.  He was a partner.  Something I am sensitive to because of my day job.  

I received an invitation to the kickoff of the City of Columbus Curbside Recycling program  from Corey Hawkey, the Sustainability Coordinator at OSU, and fellow Zero Waste dumpster diver.  The kickoff included a tour of the recycling located facility right here in Columbus off 5th Avenue between High and I-71 area. 

Mayor Coleman speaking about the City of Columbus sustainability goals and how city-wide recycling is part of that long-term plan. I captured the folks in the back blinking. I promise they weren't napping. Sorry guys.

Here are some facts I captured from the day:

  • Columbus wants to reach a 25% diversion rate by 2016 (Diverting waste from the landfill)
  • Rumpke’s recycling facility can recycle 10,000 tons in 10 minutes
  • Rumpke invested $15M into facility upgrades and new equipment in order to handle a commitment to city-wide curbside recycling
  • It is the most advanced recycling operation in the state and maybe US (self-proclaimed, I don’t know)
  • Glass goes to Dayton
  • Some recyclables go to Tennessee and Kentucky.  I missed specifics.

The pictures and explanations that follow won’t do the facility justice.  The overall facility seems about 2 football fields long, about equally as wide with a multitude of conveyor belts going in every direction.  It is organized chaos.  Very impressive.  The room is very loud and the people working there wear ear protection.  I tried to get some details to share with you but I know I missed a lot of information because of the noise volume.  You should inquire about a tour.  It’s totally worth it.

Trucks enter into the Rumpke facility and first stop for the weigh in.
A waterfall of recyclable material comes from the unloading and pre-sorting area on the other side of the wall. It's dumped into this location where conveyors immediately begin the sorting process.


This conveyor takes the recyclable materials onto a conveyor belt for sorting. I think this is where the glass is separated from the other recyclables at this point as well. More on the glass a little later.
As another line of defense to protect equipment and quality of the recyclable materials, workers try to grab contaminates from the fast-moving materials before they move further through the separation process.
It's hard to tell from this picture but what you see happening is the fans on the left side of the picture blow the paper products to the far side of the conveyor belt. Heavier items aren't blown by the air and fall off this angled belt onto a different conveyor for the rest of the ride. You can see those items on another belt below.


This is where air is used to separate plastics. All the plastics come up a conveyor belt where you see the bright light. Puffs of air with a specific pressure is released causing some plastics to continue forward on the conveyor or are pushed backwards to continue a different path. This method is used at other points in the process.



At the end of the tour, the recyclables are picked over again by a team of people. They are grabbing plastic bags that can clog the machinery. The workers lift the bags up to the vacuum pipe above their heads where the plastics bags are sucked away. I don't know where they go and how they are handled from there.


Glass is collected and held in the giant blue bins outside of the facility. It is sorted and processed about once a week. I wish I had more details to share about the glass but that's all I've got!
Rows of compressed and bundled recyclable cubes exit the machinery. They will be stored until they go on the next leg of their journey where I hope they will be recycled into new products. Notice the stacks of aluminum cans in the bag left side.


  Any incorrect facts or inaccuracies were made in error and not intentional. 


2 thoughts on “Rumpke Recycling Facility in Columbus, OH

    1. I don’t know for sure but I”ll send you a contact name. I personally don’t see why children couldn’t visit but it is loud so I suggest you take ear protection for those young ears! Everyone also wears construction type helmets, eye protection and brightly colored vests. It’s very educational so I would think children would be welcome!

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