The City of Akron and Keep Akron Beautiful, an environmental sustainability organization, have relaunched the “Recycle Right” campaign to encourage residents to recycle, but to do so correctly. Recycle Right began in 2019 as a way to reduce recycling contamination, meaning materials that are put in recycling bins that should actually go in the trash. Contamination increases recycling costs and decreases the number of recyclable items that can be recovered, according to the city.
The campaign includes workers conducting “curbside cart observations” by looking into residents’ recycling bins and, if they contain contaminants, leaving an informational tag about recycling guidelines. This year’s curbside observations looked a bit different, since workers took coronavirus-related precautions, including wearing masks and other protective gear, and practicing social distancing.
Since the Recycle Right campaign started, Akron has reported a decrease in its contamination rate, from 39% to 27.2%, and the city hopes the reboot will result in even less contamination. “Overall, we have seen a noticeable improvement from when we ran the campaign last year,” said Jacqui Ricchiuti, CEO of Keep Akron Beautiful.
Ricchiuti said the most common contaminant is non-recyclable plastic, including plastic bags from grocery stores or other retailers, and plastic wrapping, including Saran wrap and the wrapping on cases of water bottles. “The only plastics that should be placed in recycling carts are clean and empty bottles and jugs,” Ricchiuti said. “One of my favorite quotes about recycling is, ‘When in doubt, throw it out!’ 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.”