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Akron, Ohio

Recycle Right Campaign Comes to Akron


City, Keep Akron Beautiful and ReWorks, funded by a national grant, partner to increase resident education and reduce recycling contamination through “feet on the street” initiative

City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt
Published: 05-30-2019

The City of Akron is partnering with local sustainability organizations Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) and ReWorks to launch a three-month, grant-funded Recycle Right campaign designed to reduce contamination in Akron’s recycling stream. The “feet on the street” initiative officially begins June 3rd.


Recycling contamination, meaning incorrect or soiled materials placed into the recycling system, increases costs, decreases recovery of recyclable materials and threatens the sustainability of the City’s recycling program.  Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB) has been selected on behalf of the City to receive a $66,000 grant to work with The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit that provides direct support to local governments to enhance their recycling programs. The Recycling Partnership will provide an additional $150,000 in staff and resource support for the program, and ReWorks will supply $20,000 in matching funds for project management.


The Recycle Right campaign will include both informational and education efforts across Akron. To support awareness of the program, KAB sent targeted informational mailers to participating customers over the last week (available here) and will be conducting additional field activities to educate residents on proper recycling protocol.


The “feet on the street” initiative, officially beginning June 3rd, includes mobilizing specially-trained personnel to conduct curbside cart observations.  Residents who have contaminants in their recycling carts will receive informational “Oops” tags on their carts with direct feedback designed to improve recycling cart contents (example available here).  Recycling carts found to contain contaminants will not be emptied.  Instead, residents will be given the opportunity to correct the mistake and return the cart to the curb the following week.  Customers who continue to contaminate the recycling stream by placing prohibited items or garbage in their recycling cart will no longer be permitted to participate in the program. 


However, through education and direct feedback, the City’s goal is to empower residents to recycle even more, but correctly. “Only the following items should be placed into your curbside recycling carts: plastic bottles and jugs, cartons, metal beverage and food cans, paper and cardboard,” said Marcie Kress, Executive Director of Summit ReWorks. “Items should be clean, empty and not bagged.”


The City of Akron is directing residents not to place glass in recycling carts at this time. This decision was made to improve the quality of the recycle stream and to help support the City recycling program until local glass recycling markets improve. 


“By only placing the highest quality recyclables into carts, you are helping our community sustain this important program,” said John O. Moore, Director of Public Service.  “Placing contaminants—like food residue, yard waste, or plastic bags--into your recycling cart can taint an entire truckload of otherwise quality recyclables and can cause delays and shutdowns of the recycling facility. Worst of all, it threatens the sustainability of the entire program by escalating costs and increasing risk of damage or injury to workers and equipment.”


“Recycling right is the only way to recycle,” Moore concluded.


The goal of Akron’s Recycle Right campaign is to improve the quality of recyclables collected by at least 25%. The Recycling Partnership’s program model has worked for Keep America Beautiful affiliate cities—including Atlanta, which saw a 57% decrease in contamination and a 27% increase in overall capture of quality recyclables during their pilot program in 2017.  If Akron’s program proves to be successful, the City plans to continue with the program after the initial run is complete to further educate residents and improve recycling quality.


For more information about how to recycle right or about the “feet on the street” campaign, please visit call the Mayor’s Action Center at 3-1-1 or (330) 375-2311. 

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