Cleveland Selects New Recycling Processor, Will Restart Program in June After Two-Year Lapse

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Cleveland Selects New Recycling Processor, Will Restart Program in June After Two-Year Lapse
City of Cleveland

The city of Cleveland last Friday announced that it at long last has secured a recycling processor (Rumpke) and will soon begin actually recycling materials collected from curbside bins, restarting a program that has been on hold for two years.

“On Earth Day, we are proud to announce a fresh start for recycling in the City of Cleveland with a trusted local vendor as our partner,” Mayor Justin Bibb said in a statement. “Thanks to our program coordinator, the sustainability team and all involved in the process so far. Residents across the city have let me know that recycling is important to them, and we are ready to get started.”

The lapse, which started in April 2020, had frustrated residents, not least because the Jackson administration never announced that the previous contract had ended and a new one never signed. Reporting from Fox 8 later in the year was the first anyone learned that their recyclables were being dumped in the same landfills as their garbage.

While Jackson should have been more transparent and done more in public outreach, the situation was hardly his fault. Costs had escalated and the city drew little interest when it issued an RFP seeking a new processor due to high levels of contamination (nearly 70% of all materials in curbside bins were contaminated at the time the program was paused) and a marketplace (China) that had lately restricted the kinds and quality of materials it would accept.

In the meantime, Cleveland enlisted a consultant, sought new bids, hired a dedicated recycling coordinator, landed then lost a new processor last year, and launched a new opt-in curbside program  to limit collection to those who would (hopefully) be more inclined to follow guidelines.

So far, only 18% of Cleveland households (27,000 out of 150,000) have opted in, the city's new recycling coordinator Ren Brumfield told Cleveland.com. But the city hopes that with last week's announcement interest will grow. Before the program restarts sometime around June, it will offer an additional period in May when residents who haven't yet can opt in.

All those who volunteer will receve information and stickers detailing what can and can't go in the bins:
  • Plastic bottles, jugs, tubs (butter, sour cream, cottage cheese tubs as well as yogurt and fruit and yogurt cups) and disposable plastic cups, NOT Solo cups.
  • Cartons.
  • Glass bottles and jars (any color).
  • Aluminum cups and cans and steel cans.
  • Paper, paper board (cereal boxes, 12-pack containers, mail, etc.), cardboard and paper cups.

    The guidelines for disposable cups, per the city, are as follows:
  • Plastic lids should be reattached to plastic cups.
  • Plastic lids from paper cups should be removed and discarded.
  • Straws and stoppers are not accepted.
  • Colored Solo brand cups are not accepted. These cups are made from polystyrene and we currently do not have a secure, long-term end user for this material.
  • Ceramic and glass cups are not accepted. In fact, they can be damaging to the glass recovery process.
  • K-cups are not accepted.

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