Recyclable: Detergent bottles.
Not recyclable: Railroad ties.
Recyclable: Juice box containers.
Not recyclable: Batteries.
The city of Akron will begin an educational campaign next week because of an increasing problem with people trying to recycle inappropriate items. The campaign will include spot checks of residents’ recycle containers to look for non-approved items, starting Tuesday in the Highland Square area.
When city employees find items that can’t be recycled, they will put a tag on the resident’s bin explaining the violation, and the recyclables won’t be picked up. They also will leave behind a flier explaining the recycling guidelines.
Residents will need to take out the non-approved items and place the container at the curb the following week on the normal collection day.
Paul Barnett, Akron’s public works manager, said the city is trying a more active approach because fliers and brochures alone don’t seem to be working. He said about 10 percent of the material Akron’s trash customers put into their recycle bins isn’t recyclable and must be sent to a landfill.
“We struggle with how to target the people who have the contamination,” Barnett said. “We think this is the best way. What we find is — when we mail out a brochure — they don’t read it. They assume they are putting the right things out.”
The campaign is a joint effort of the city’s Sanitation Division and the Summit Akron Solid Waste Management Authority (SASWMA), an agency that promotes recycling in Summit County. Four authority employees will inspect the recycle bins, with the assistance of managers from the city’s sanitation division. The process, which will target areas in which the most recycling violations have been detected, will last several weeks and might be repeated.
The issue of non-approved items being recycled has both safety and financial implications. For example, some customers are trying to recycle medical syringes. When employees at Waste Management Greenstar Recycling, which handles Akron’s recycling, sort through the recycling, some have been stuck by a needle, Barnett said.
“It’s not just slowing the operation down,” he said. “It’s people getting physically hurt.”
Waste Management Greenstar Recycling has been processing Akron’s recyclables for about a year and opened a $7 million sorting facility at the Akron Fulton International Airport last June.
The city has a stake in the quality of the recyclables the company processes because it shares in the profits after the company takes out its processing costs. So, if the company must spend more time sorting out non-recyclable items and taking them to a landfill, that means less profit for both the company and the city, Barnett said.
He said the city is expected to earn about $200,000 this year from recycling.
Akron has about 65,000 customers and 43,000 of them recycle. Customers receive a $2.50 break on their monthly trash bills for their efforts.
The city is looking for other ways to better educate the public about the dos and don’ts of recycling and Waste Management Greenstar Recycling has agreed to help fund the campaign. Fliers will be distributed to Akron Public Schools sixth-graders, at ward meetings and in water bills.
Barnett said other Summit County communities also are frustrated about residents recycling incorrect items and might launch their own educational campaigns.
“I think everybody will go down this path,” he said. “We’re just kind of the first.”
Beth Schmucker, a spokeswoman for Waste Management Greenstar Recycling, said the Texas-based company is pleased about Akron’s campaign. She said people putting syringes and other sharp items into their recycling is a problem.
“This education campaign is coming at the right time,” she said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.