First, a public service announcement to all of you Akron-area green recyclers: Do NOT put plastic grocery bags, trash, or food waste in recycling bins.

But there are a lot other things you can — and should — recycle.

And now there’s a giant banner affixed to the outside wall of the Akron Civic Theatre overlooking downtown’s Lock 3 showing very simply what should be put in recycling bins.

The 66-by-23-foot banner was paid for as part of a $5,000 donation to the city from Waste Management of Ohio’s “Think Green” grant program. An additional $2,500 was donated by Waste Management’s Greenstar Recyling Plant in the city. The donations will help Akron better educate its residents on recycling.

About 45,000 of the city’s 62,000 curbside trash customers regularly recycle, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said Tuesday morning as part of a news conference at Lock 3 on the recycling program.

“Roughly 70 percent participate in Akron’s recycling program,” Horrigan said. “We need to do better. Seventy could be a great number. Why not aim for 75 next year?”

The banner is in a “premier spot” at Lock 3, the mayor said. The hundreds of thousands of people who annually go to Lock 3 events will be in a position to see the banner, officials said.

“I think it’s essential that all city residents understand how to recycle properly,” Horrigan said. The city recycles about 8,400 tons a year while disposing of about 68,000 tons of trash annually, he said.

“There’s room for improvement and this program will help us do it,” he said. “We’ll continue to get better.”

Kathy Trent, spokeswoman for Waste Management, said the banner was designed to show people simply and clearly what materials are appropriate to recycle — primarily empty bottles, cans, plastic and paper. Keep recyclable materials loose, not bagged, when they are put in a bin, she said.

“We want to keep all those loose plastic bags out of the recycling cart,” Trent said. “We want you to recycle often and recycle right.”

Horrigan said afterward that a 70 percent recycling rate is good but he wants the city to increase participation.

“I want to have a goal. … You need a plan, too,” he said. Setting a goal will involve collecting data and holding further discussions among city officials on the best ways to increase recycling, he said.

“The more we keep out of the landfill the more it saves us money,” Horrigan said. “It helps the environment.”

City Councilman Rich Swirsky, chairman of the council’s Green/Sustainability Committee, said he gives Akron a “B plus” when it comes to curbside recycling.

“I appreciate the mayor raising the bar so we get an A plus,” he said. Among the benefits of recycling is that it improves quality of life, he said.

“This is what modern cities do,” Swirsky. “They recycle their waste. We want to be among the best in the country in the way we take care of our waste.”

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ