Municipal recycling programs are as different as the communities they serve. But keeping a large recycling stream pure is a universal challenge.
The city of Akron has launched an initiative to combat the increasing volume of contamination in its recycling streams.
Over the next three months, the “Recycle Right” campaign will rely on bin inspections and ongoing communication with residents, according to Akron Chief of Staff James Hardy.
“It’s important to talk about what is recyclable, how do we recycle right so that you can recycle with confidence, knowing that the things you’re putting in your bin really truly are going to be reused," he said. "Versus what we’ve seen in our community, which is everything from dead animals all the way to old winter coats.”
Some Akron residents will find “Oops” tags stuck to their recycle bins, signifying something in the bin is not recyclable. The tags will come from inspectors who represent the “feet on the street” component the Recycle Right campaign. Educational flyers hit mailboxes last week.
In Akron, the contamination has been increasing the cost of the recycling program and reducing its effectiveness. In addition, China, which took much of the country’s recyclables, has been turning material away.
“It’s gotten to a point, and it’s not just Akron, it's communities all over Northeast Ohio and across the country, that the way that we recycle needs to change," Hardy said. "It’s not okay any more to put anything under the sun in your recycle bin for lots of reasons, but primarily because they’re not recyclable.”
Keep Akron Beautiful will manage the campaign working with The Recycling Partnership, a nonprofit whose work has been successful in other cities. Grants from The Recycling Partnership and Summit ReWorks are helping pay for the program.