Reduce Reuse Refocus

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to residential recycling programs. What can go in?  What can‘t? Who’s taking our recycling?  What are we accomplishing: Are we saving money, the planet?

In order for recycling to work, there needs to be a better understanding of how the system works and currently what doesn’t, what’s broken and how it can be fixed. One of the key things that seems to be missing is information.  WKSU News is working to find the information you need, from the reporting that helps clear the confusion to a recycling guide that can help you better understand what you can and can't recycle in your community. 

Our stories run the week of February 17th. In the meantime, check out some of the additional reporting done by WKSU, NPR and other member stations around the country. And for a diversion, check out our Spotify playlist (in Ways to Connect on the right) inspired by recycling and garbage.

Picture of Mark Suchan.
Joe Gunderman

The Quasar Energy Group has been tasked with hauling away Kent State University's food waste that was ground up through the Grind2Energy system. The food waste will then be fed to Quasar's anaerobic digester. 

Mark Suchan is the Director of Materials Management for Quasar Energy Group. Quasar is a Cleveland company that speacializes in renewable energy and organics management.

a photo of a recycling bin
MARK AREHART / WKSU

The business of recycling has changed — China is no longer buying. And communities in Northeast Ohio and across the country are feeling the economic squeeze. In this installment of our series Reduce, Reuse, Refocus, we took a look at emerging recycling technologies and how they could someday make recycling more economically viable.

crane feeds an auto shredder
JENNIFER CONN / WKSU

If you live in the Rust Belt, you’ve likely seen your share of scrap metal yards. Scrap might look like rusted junk, but industrial recycling remains a robust industry. Industrial recycling, combined with commercial material from retail operations, makes up the majority of the U.S. recycling industry today.


Bainbridge Township recycling center
AMANDA RABINOWITZ / WKSU

Recycling in Ohio’s rural communities is all about choice and effort. If curbside is available, it’s expensive, leading many people to rely on dropoff centers. But some areas just want to do it their way, which can be a challenge.

photo of Meredith Ersing
KABIR BHATIA / WKSU

When it comes to recycling plastic, most people check for a number on the bottom of every container. But what does that number actually mean, and why are some plastics not recyclable? This installment of our series, Reduce, Reuse, Refocus traces the life cycle of a piece of plastic.

a photo of a woman with recycling bin
JOE GUNDERMAN / WKSU

Changes in international markets along with skyrocketing processing costs have thrown the industry into a tailspin.

In this first installment of our series Reduce, Reuse, Refocus, we sort through the confusion about recycling. 

We heard it from you time and again.

"Why can't I find one place where I can get what I need to know about recycling in my city, my village, my township?"

We looked. We couldn't find one either.

As part of our series, Reduce Reuse Refocus, we decided to build one for you.

screen capture of Oscar the Grouch
YOUTUBE

It's hard not to do a series about recycling without thinking of Oscar the Grouch. After all, he lives in a garbage can, but he was born in a time before there was really greater consideration given to what we threw away and the impact it had on the planet. Over time our thoughts about garbage, what we throw away and what we can recycle have evolved.

photo of Andrew Meyer
PAGE SAMPSON

Where do all our recyclables go after sorting?

How clean should they be before they go into the bin?

Is recycling profitable at all?

Does my recycling really get recycled?

That’s just a small sampling of the questions we got from our listeners when we asked you for ideas for our next series. An overwhelming majority of you told us that you wanted to know more about recycling. Time and again, those questions pointed to a state of confusion.