Residents who toss nonrecyclable garbage into recycling bins are trashing the city’s recycling efforts, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said Wednesday.
More than 20 percent of the recyclables Toledoans place at the curb — at least 80 cubic yards every weekday — is sent to a landfill because of garbage contamination instead of being processed into new materials and products, the mayor said during a news conference.
The mayor held the event at the facility where the city’s recyclables are dumped and then either taken to a Michigan plant for processing or shipped to the city’s dump.
The problem is too much garbage, yard waste, debris, or other nonrecyclable materials in the city’s curbside recyclables containers.
As the mayor was preparing to speak, workers pulled out a washing machine agitator, a bicycle wheel, a basketball, and window blinds from a truckload of recyclables dumped at the Kuhlman Corp. facility near downtown. Dozens of plastic bags filled with recyclables were visible in the pile.
The company that accepts and sorts local recyclables, ReCommunity Recycling, sends those to the landfill as well.
“This is something we prided ourselves on 10 to 15 years ago to have for everyone,” Mayor Hicks-Hudson said.
“I am asking for the help of the community for us to continue to do the good work ... as it relates to our environment,” she said.
Loads that are too contaminated with nonrecyclables are taken to the city-owned Hoffman Road landfill and dumped at taxpayers’ expense, the mayor said.
David Welch, Toledo’s commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said the city will start a campaign to educate people about what can be placed in the recyclable container.
“It can be as simple as a bag of yard waste,” Mr. Welch said. “That yard waste goes into that truck and can contaminate that whole load … a whole six tons of recycling.”
Mr. Welch acknowledged other cities have the same problem, but said Toledo’s contamination rate is “very, very high.”
City spokesman Janet Schroeder said the city would send a flyer to every household in Toledo. She did not immediately know how much that would cost.
Ms. Schroeder said city workers will target some areas and look in recyclables containers for unacceptable items.
“We may put a notice on your can that you have had an issue and please try to get with the program to help us all do a better job,” she said.
Mr. Welch said the city could fine residents for placing nonrecyclable trash in the blue recycling containers, but it wants to educate people rather than punish.
Steve Klemann, regional manager for ReCommunity, said people should deposit items such as newspapers, aluminum cans, plastic containers, and cardboard.
“When you put in bags of garage, tires, yard waste, garden hoses, bulky items such as pillows [and] clothing, and plastic film, it doesn’t work in the system,” Mr. Klemann said.
The city pays $15.2 million for its solid-waste operations. That includes paying $9.27 million annually for refuse and recyclable-material collection; $4.36 million for landfill operations and capital costs; $1.08 million to hire a company to process Toledoans’ recyclable materials, and $550,000 for administrative expenses.
The city previously paid $40,000 a month for the recycling service, which recently jumped to $90,000 a month.
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