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'Don't wish-cycle':Proper recycling etiquette encouraged as pandemic fuels demand in Northeast Ohio

Posted at 6:09 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 06:53:41-04

CLEVELAND — While the pandemic brought about some bad, the environment is reaping some benefits with recycling demands surging across the nation, but also here in Northeast Ohio and your online shopping habits are part of the reason.

Since so many of us were stuck at home during the statewide pandemic shutdown, online shopping trends surged and so did cardboard packages to residential homes.

“We call it the Amazon effect,” said Beth Biggins-Ramer, executive director of Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. “Mills that make caulk, that make new carboard boxes are running at capacity in the Midwest.”

But Biggins-Ramer says this is a good thing.

“With supply and demand for cardboard both being up the price for that material has increased. It’s truly showing the circularity of that product, “she said. “Those are going into the stream, it’s being remanufactured, coming right back around and into your recycle bin again.”

According to the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, more items are being recycled since the pandemic started so volume is up. Though, the number of folks recycling throughout the county has changed. Last year, about 23% of homeowners recycled, which is a slight drop from the company’s 25% goal for residential.

“Unfortunately, garbage outpaced what was recycling,” Biggins-Ramer said.

Yet, even with that drop Biggins-Ramer and her team say they’re not concerned as of now. However, there is a problem catching their attention and it has everything to so with masks and personal protection equipment (PPE).

“We have seen obviously a major increase in those,” Biggins-Ramer said. “Those materials we do not want in the recycle bin.”

Each time you put those masks and PPE in the recycle bin, it costs the recycling facility more time and money to properly sort it. As Biggins-Ramer explained, “they’re not recyclable.” Biggins-Ramer says these items are considered contaminants, which causes more harm.

“If you did put these in your recycle bin, it would be off-sorted as a contaminant later and then that’s taken to the landfill.”

Biggins-Ramer says masks and PPE have also become a part of a litter issue along with other non-recyclables, which is increasing across the county.

“Litter is something that is not only a blight but it’s a hazard to our environment,” Biggins-Ramer explained. “We don’t want to see these things swept down into the storm drain which then ends up polluting our waterways which then has an effect on you know birds, and the animals and the environment.”

Here’s the rule of thumb, If it’s not paper and boxes, plastic bottles and jugs, cans, cartons or glass bottles and jars throw it in the trash.

“Don’t wish-cycle,” Biggins-Ramer said. “Do the right thing a the get-go.”

For more information on proper recycling, click here or call 216-443-3749.