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Cleveland hopes to have some recycling services back by the end of 2021

Republic recycling
Posted at 3:23 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 18:13:48-04

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland is taking its first steps towards once again collecting recyclable materials with the goal of recycling again before 2021 is over. All city waste has been sent to the landfill since April 1, 2020, when its last contract for recycling processing expired and the city couldn’t get another bid that was acceptable.

The main problem was a high level of contamination in Cleveland’s curbside recycling stream. Recycling audits showed there was more trash in Cleveland’s recycling bins than materials that could be recycled.

Before 2018, large amounts of our recycling could go from our curbside bins to China. Starting in 2018, China became more selective about what it would accept, driving the demand and price for recycled materials way down.

The first three steps the city will take will be to:

  • Hire a Recycling Coordinator to oversee the city’s program.
  • Put out bids for another recycling contract.
  • Allow residents to opt-in for recycling pick-up.

Of those three, City of Cleveland Chief of Sustainability Jason Wood tells News 5 the opt-in program could roll out to residents in the next few weeks, allowing residents to tell the city they want curbside recycling collection.

Before April 2020, recycling was being collected from 150,000 homes, leaving a lot of room for people to do it incorrectly, therefore driving up the price. Wood says opting in allows the city to start smaller and get a contract that it can afford.

Recycling Investments
In this May 7, 2019 photo, a man walks under towers of recyclables at a GDB International warehouse in Monmouth Junction, N.J. A decision by China’s government to restrict imports of wastepaper and plastic that has disrupted U.S. recycling programs has also spurred investment in American plants that process recyclables. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“As we reset the program and re-size it to a point where it is more manageable and we can make sure that we are bringing those contamination rates down, prices should come down and be a little bit more in line with industry averages,” said Wood.

Wood says the city is working on the other two steps in parallel tracks so that one doesn’t delay another. More manageable bids, he says, will make future improvements possible.

“That’s really the key piece of this because if we don’t have somebody who is going to take the recyclable materials, we can’t do much else,” said Wood.

The goal is to get as many people recycling again, correctly, as quickly as possible while also making sure the improvements stick.

“It’s critical that as we do that, we get this program designed in a way that works and is sustainable over time because we don’t want to end up back here in a couple years having to do this again,” said Wood.

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