Onward and upward: Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub pushes toward expansion

Since opening, Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub (CCRH) has been on an upward climb to success. Operating out of a fourth-floor warehouse via freight elevator with the mission of collecting and redistributing hard-to-recycle items to appropriate facilities, the nonprofit continued gaining momentum after securing a new van and baler through EPA grants in 2021.

“We’ve had so many people with so much interest,” says executive director Colleen McSwiggin. “The van has been just huge because we could not get everything to where it needs to go without it.”

But while the transport van and baler have helped in collecting and allocating usable refuse, demand for services and the need for further direction has been presented at every turn. Through growing community interest and involvement, grateful residents have not only offered literal tons of articles for recycling – but also heaps of questions about what to do with other items they can’t unload.

“The lettuce containers, dairy containers – actually the number of number ones that we anticipate receiving will equal all of the other numbers together that we collect! So, we are really excited that we finally figured out a place to send those,” says McSwiggin, relieved to have solved one more eco-puzzle.

Plotting so many complex paths to redirect usable material (on top of running the all-volunteer facility) hasn’t been easy for McSwiggin, who was also a chemistry lab manager at Mt. St. Joseph University until recently. Thankfully, as of last September, she has been able to dedicate herself to a full-time position at Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub. She also hired on a few other paid employees to fill crucial roles with the help of additional grant money.

Just a few weeks ago, the organization pushed to expand its outreach by kicking off a Neighborhood Ambassador program.

“We're hoping to have contacts in all of Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods as well as all other townships, villages, and cities in the area. The ambassadors would then be a resource for the neighbors when they have questions. They'll help us set up off-site events and collection points near where they live, so that people don't have to come all the way to the Hub in Lower Price Hill to recycle,” says McSwiggin, who has another EPA grant in the works that is earmarked to fund the purchase of a box truck. It would be used to facilitate collection in lower-income neighborhoods. “We want to try to target areas where people have a hard time getting to us or can’t afford the fees to try to make this more equitable.”

For the future, the Hub’s members are setting their sights on a huge expansion involving various ecocentric partnerships. The vision involves multiple organizations occupying a single, massive location in order to share their distinct resources and services as well as maximize  outreach and collection capabilities.

Over the next few years, McSwiggin envisions limitless possibilities with the establishment of this “Resilience Hub,” hoping it will bring a new era in eco-friendly living to Cincinnati.

“Probably over a dozen other nonprofits will be involved as well. There will be community gardens, composting, and we would have cold storage,” explains McSwiggin, who also hopes to tackle food waste issues.

“Once it happened that we had a semi-trailer full of cabbages that had sat for five minutes over temp requirements and couldn’t be sold. So, if we could take those in and use all of that food – we need to do that! That would be part of this. It's just a matter of finding a place that can hold everything,” says McSwiggin. Future cold storage solutions include partnering with Global Cold Chain Alliance.

She is currently shopping around for not just increased warehouse space with better accessibility (as she’d initially planned), but eyeing acreage on which to build this vast, resource-filled compound.

Cincinnati Recycling & Reuse Hub will be on hand at Blue Ash’s Summit Park for the Earth Day celebration on April 22nd.
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Read more articles by Eliza Bobonick.

Eliza Bobonick is a Cincinnati-based writer and a mother of three. Her work has been featured in such local and regional publications as Cincinnati CityBeat and Kentucky Homes and Gardens Magazine. She is a former musician whose interests include photography and interior design.