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Akron, Ohio

City of Akron and Keep Akron Beautiful Complete the Second Round of the Recycle Right Campaign

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Cart tagging educational effort identified common issues with non-recyclable plastic bags and plastic wrap placed in recycling carts

City of Akron Press Release
From the desk of Ellen Lander Nischt
Published: 08-17-2020

Akron, Ohio, August 17, 2020 – Over the past month, the City of Akron and local sustainability organization Keep Akron Beautiful have been working on Recycle Right 2.0. 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. The Recycle Right campaign is designed to reduce the contamination in Akron's recycling stream through educational efforts across Akron.

The initiative again mobilized specially-trained personnel to conduct curbside cart observations. Workers took extra precautions this year by wearing masks and protective gear, and practicing social distancing while conducting their observations. Residents who had non-recyclable material in their recycling carts received informational “Oops” tags on their carts with direct feedback designed to improve compliance with proper recycling guidelines. 

“Overall, we have seen a noticeable improvement from when we ran the campaign last year,” said Jacqui Ricchiuti, CEO of Keep Akron Beautiful. “The most common contaminant in recycling carts is non-recyclable plastic. We noticed a lot of plastic bags (such as what you might get from a grocery store) and plastic wrapping (including Saran wrap and the wrapping that goes over a case of water bottles). The only plastics that should be placed in recycling carts are clean and empty bottles and jugs.”

The first Recycle Right campaign, conducted last year, yielded significant results – with the quality of Akron’s recyclables improving considerably. The City of Akron's contamination rate went from 39% to 27.2%, which represents a 30% overall reduction in contamination. The City hopes that Recycle Right 2.0 and other education efforts reduce that contamination rate even further. 

“We know that Akron residents value the recycling program and want to see it succeed,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “This initiative has allowed us to continue to educate our recycling customers about the correct way to recycle, so that they can help us keep this program sustainable.”

Some trash items which are commonly placed in recycling carts, which contribute to contamination:

  • Plastic bags
  • Pizza boxes/to-go containers – Items that once contained cooked food are waste products and should not be recycled.
  • Contaminated laundry detergent containers – While laundry detergent jugs are recyclable, you must thoroughly clean/wash them out so that no detergent is left in the container, otherwise it is contaminated and should be disposed of in your trash cart.
  • Dirty or wet cardboard

“One of my favorite quotes about recycling is, ‘When in doubt, throw it out!’” added CEO Ricchiuti. “When you put an item in your recycling bin which isn’t actually recyclable you can contaminate other items. This contamination results in most, if not all, of the recyclable items in your cart being thrown out. It’s better to throw out one item instead of an entire cart.”

To help take any guesswork out of what can or cannot be recycled, the City of Akron offers the free Akron Recycles app. The app allows residents to search any item and find out if it belongs in the trash bin, the recycling bin, or on the curb as a bulk item. The app also provides customized alerts and reminders regarding curbside pickup. It is available to download for free on Apple or Android devices. The need to improve the quality of recyclables is a high priority for communities across the nation, including Akron, considering today’s national recycling market conditions and the desire to continue a sustainable recycling program. For more information about Akron’s recycling program, please visit www.akronohio.gov/recycling.

For further information, contact:
Ellen Lander Nischt
Press Secretary
Phone: 330-375-2345
E-mail: [email protected]

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