The Ohio EPA awarded the Portage County Solid Waste Management District a grant of nearly $22,000 to pay for direct mailing and decals. The county will supplement the grant with $12,500 in newspaper advertising, plus email blasts to residents.

Bill Steiner, executive director of the district, said the goal is to reduce “contamination,” or non-recyclable items in the recycle bins. Overall, the county’s contamination level is at 20 percent, a number Steiner would like to see cut in half.

Contamination, he said, drives up processing costs and could raise rates for those paying for curbside recycling. “The entire county is at risk for increases because of the actions of a few residents,” stated a grant application.

Steiner said the EPA offers two grants aimed at cutting down on contamination. Akron received a larger grant that requires employees to visually inspect bins for contamination. That, Steiner said, has received negative feedback, and also isn’t practical for his small staff, especially in rural areas.

Portage County, he said, is in a unique position because it has a mix of curbside recycling and drop-offs, the latter having a 38 percent contamination rate because people tend to discard garbage there. There are cameras at the drop-offs, Steiner said, and people are prosecuted for illegal dumping, particularly when they are repeat offenders. “We need to educate people on what’s acceptable,” he said.

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