The City of Akron will no longer recycle glass. When we started looking for other places to recycle glass, we learned that we’re all pretty terrible at recycling just about everything.

by Noor Hindi

On Friday, Nov. 23, 13 federal agencies released a 1,656-page assessment detailing the consequences of climate change for the United States. A month earlier, the United Nations’ panel on climate change reported that climate disaster — food shortages, wildfires, rising sea levels — could be our reality as early as 2040. Yikes.

And yet, at the same time, the City of Akron’s Recycling Collection Division has recently decided to stop accepting glass items.

Glass comprises about 15 percent of all recycled items in Akron. Beer and wine bottles, glass jars, broken dishes — all the glass in Akron will now end of up in landfills. This is bad.

Why was the decision made, what does it mean for Akron residents, and what can residents do moving forward to help the environment?

I brought these questions to Public Works Manager James Hall and Chris Ludle, Deputy Director of Public Services.

Why did the City of Akron decide to stop recycling glass?  

To continue processing glass, the city would’ve had to raise recycling fees. They chose to stop recycling glass instead.

“Without raising the price [of recycling], we’ve made a decision to ask our customers to refrain from putting glass in right now,” Ludle says. “To make our program [financially] sustainable, right now, we’re asking, don’t put glass in the recycle.”

Ludle adds, “We are very committed to recycling. We’re very committed as a city and we’re very conscious. But the market has changed dramatically.”

Until the city decides to assume the cost, or find out if residents are willing to bear the cost via a tax, Akron residents should limit their purchasing of glass, or consider reusing their glass items until alternate solutions are provided by the city.

What can I do to be better at recycling?

The good news: 43,000 households in Akron recycle. The bad news: 36.4 percent of all recycled material are contaminated because of wishful recycling, or people not knowing any better, or people just not giving a damn.

This means that a little under half of all “recycled” material has to be removed and transported to a landfill by Waste Management employees, which costs the city more money — Akron pays Waste Management to handle residents’ trash and recycling — and wastes time.

Don’t recycle your kid’s swimming pool left over from the summer, or your garden hose, or your bowling ball (!?!?), or any other weird item you think should be recycled, but actually isn’t.

OK, cool. So what is recyclable in Akron?

For a more extensive list, click here.

1. Paper products. This includes newspapers, paper (that has not been shredded), phone books, beer and beverage packages, cereal boxes and tissue boxes.

2. Cartons. This includes milk and juice cartons, soup and broth cartons, etc.

3. Plastic products. This includes water, soda and sports drink bottles; milk, iced tea, and juice containers; and soap, dish liquid and laundry detergent containers.

4. Cardboard. Preferably flattened. Don’t bundle it.

5. Aluminum and metal cans. This includes soda, soup, vegetable and tomato sauce cans.

Why is it so important that I make sure the things I’m recycling are actually recyclable?

Recycling in 2018 took a big hit when China implemented the National Sword Policy, which banned the importation of most recycled materials.

Why does China matter? According to writer Shoshana Wodinsky of The Verge, since 1988, China has taken in more than 10 million metric tons of plastic waste from countries like the United States. Now the U.S. has tons and tons of plastic that we simply don’t know what to do with.

China’s leaders got tired of processing the world’s trash. So now they’ll only accept material that meets really strict guidelines. For example, contamination rates have to be less than 0.5 percent, which is “very hard to achieve,” according to Kathy Trent, senior public affairs director at Waste Management.

The City of Akron Recycling Collection Division says it’s working on creating programs that educate residents about recycling in attempt to reduce the 36.4 percent contamination percentage. In 2019, they’ll be focusing on educating residents by targeting areas with higher contamination rates and talking to residents.

What are some items I think are recyclable but actually aren’t?

Plastic bags. Everyone I spoke to made it clear that it’s NOT COOL to bag your recycled items.

Glass. No mirrors.

Clothing.

Dead animals (this is real).

Food. Please, no leftover Chipotle.

Bottle caps and lids. Take them off before you recycle your plastic bottles.

Napkins.

Wood.

Holiday lights & fake Christmas trees. Not festive. Don’t do it.

Batteries. If you have e-waste, take it to Reworks in Cuyahoga Falls. Check out their website at summitreworks.com/hhw.

Grass.

Garden hoses.

Used makeup containers. Keep your Sephora to yourself.

Needles.

Dirty pizza boxes.

Styrofoam.

Your kid’s crayons.

And remember: Make sure everything you recycle is clean and dry.

Happy recycling, Akron.

Noor Hindi is The Devil Strip’s Senior Reporter. Contact her at noor@thedevilstrip.com.

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