If you don’t recycle right in Cleveland, the city is going to recycle some of your money.
Frustrated by Clevelanders doing the right thing the wrong way, the city began issuing $100 citations for improper recycling on August 1. In the first month, Cleveland reported handing out more than 1,000 tickets, meaning that citizens have already thrown away more than $100,000 along with their trash.
Public Works Director Michael Cox said the city doesn’t want to be punitive, but that educational efforts and friendly warnings haven’t done the job.
“My goal is not to give out any citations,” he said. “My goal is for everybody to set out their waste and their recyclables correctly.”
Cleveland’s problems are common throughout the country as landfills reach capacity and the economics of municipal recycling are less rosy than before.
Many cities, from Brookline, Mass., to Dearborn, Mich., to Charlotte, N.C., threaten to fine residents who don’t follow trash collection rules, which are designed to make collection faster and more efficient, and help the recycling movement.
But Cleveland appears to lead the league in taking action.
Cox said that 65 percent of items put in curbside recycling bins shouldn’t be there, which often condemns the entire load to the landfill.
That’s called contamination in the recycling world. China’s new restrictions on contamination in recyclables have virtually halted U.S. shipments there and made recycling less financially feasible.
In 2016 Cleveland announced new guidelines for trash and recyclable collections, mandating that they must be put in city-issued roll carts – black for trash, blue for recycling – with the lids closed.
In March trash collectors started leaving warnings for violations such as overstuffing the carts and putting the wrong things in the recycling bin. In August the warnings turned into $100 fines.
At Echo Environmental, we work at making recycling profitable for everyone, with as few trips to the landfill as possible. But it all starts at the curb, if we don’t want to end up like Cleveland.