Waste collection companies remind residents of recycling basics

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
There are several items that can be recycled; however, some things need to be kept out of the recycling bins.

With more people staying at home, there has been an increase in home garbage generated, as well as more material found in the recycle bins. However, some materials that have made their way into recycling should not be there.

Lisa Beursken, the recycling coordinator for Republic Services, said that the company has seen an increase in items like packing materials, food waste, styrofoam, and even rubber gloves and masks in the recycle bins.

"They are not ending up where they need to be," Beursken said. 

Inappropriate recyling can not only lead to increased costs and sorting times, but can prove a danger to staff who go through the bags and sort through the bags.

"We had a lawnmower blade come in, and it tore the screen and cut through the conveyor belt," she said. "That was recyclable, but not in our program."

The workers who sort through the recycle bags go through to remove not just items that cannot be recycled, but items Beursken called "tanglers" such as garden hoses and wires, which can damage the Republic Service's equipment. 

"Our focus is on the folks who are on the line," she said. "They have gloves and proper PPE, but they shouldn't have to worry about the stuff coming through harming them."

Rina Blacklaws, the area communications manager with Waste Management, said that "contamination is an ongoing challenge, but we are making steady progress to reduce and address it" through education efforts. 

"Since the pandemic, we've seen about a 20% increase in cardboard boxes and about a 15% increase in plastic packaging at our material recovery facilities," Blacklaws said. 

Tips to recycling effectively, Blacklaws said, include:

  • Making sure bottles, cans, paper and cardboard are clean;
  • Keeping food and liquids out of recycling; and
  • Do not include loose bags, and do not bag recyclable items.

"Recycling is an easy way to protect our environment and ensure the well-being of our community for generations to come," she said. "However, the success of recycling depends on the active participation of the community. Research shows convenience and commitment are required for maximum recycling. Non-recyclable items contaminate recyclables. Recyclables stuck inside plastic bags are at risk for never making it through the recycling process. Conversely, recyclable items placed into garbage containers are hauled to a landfill and cannot be recovered effectively. The right thing to do is put the right recyclables in the recycling container and non-recyclables into garbage containers."

Blacklaws said that progress has been made in technology and customer habits when it comes to recycling.

"Thanks to ongoing customer engagement by our drivers and customer service agents, innovative technology and various partnerships, we reduced inbound contamination at our 46 single stream recycling facilities from a high of 24% in August of 2018 to 19% at the end of 2019," she said, adding that the goal was to have no more than 10% contamination across all of the company's material recovery facilities by 2025.

For details, visit recyclingsimplified.com, or wm.com/recycleright, online.

Recycling hazardous materials

Summit County operates the Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Center at 1201 Graham Road in Stow. At certain times of the year, the center can take materials such as batteries, cleaners, oil-based paints and pesticides.

The HHWRC will reopen June 3 for the 2021 season, and will be open on Thursdays between 2 and 7 p.m. 

For details, visit www.summitreworks.com online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com