Recycling beyond the blue bin
Cleveland Heights’ new recycling and waste bins have residents talking trash, literally, and Carin Miller, education specialist at the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, couldn’t be happier.
“With Cleveland Heights’ transition to automated waste collection, recycling dos and don’ts, as well as other guidelines for proper trash disposal, are receiving a whole lot of attention,” said the recycling expert.
“Most residents have been comfortably following the same patterns and choices when it comes to how they manage their everyday waste, separating their recyclables in blue bags and going the extra mile by choosing to compost. But the new blue bins came with guidelines, and the guidelines shed new light on well-intentioned, yet misguided, wish-cycling habits.”
For Miller, this is a watershed moment for re-establishing and re-enforcing what is and is not recyclable by Kimble, Cleveland Heights’ recycling processor.
Natalie Elwell, co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team and Cuyahoga County Recycling Ambassador, wants to make sure that residents understand that just because an item cannot go in the blue bin, it often can still be upcycled, or recycled elsewhere.
According to Elwell and Miller, the most common recycling questions are related to plastic bags, computers and electronics, scrap metal, and batteries.
Plastic film, such as produce bags, dry cleaning bags, and packaging wrap for paper towels and diapers, can be recycled along with plastic bags at some retailers, including Giant Eagle, Dave’s Markets, Lowe’s, Marc’s, Zagara’s Marketplace, Target and Walmart stores.
Check with the store to confirm the types of plastic bags and film it will accept.
The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District recommends the user-friendly www.plasticfilmrecycling.org as a good source of information.
When it comes to metal, said Elwell, “Most people do not realize that they are discarding a valuable resource that can be re-used, upcycled, and recycled into myriad products."
“The only metals that belong in curbside recycling are aluminum and steel cans,” said Elwell. “I keep a large box in my basement designated for scrap metal. Once you become aware of all the products made of recyclable metal, the box tends to fill faster than what you’d imagine.
"This includes scrap metal like aluminum foil, trays and pans; tin cans and jars; nuts and bolts; license plates; and wire hangers.
"Many larger metal objects, such as car parts, appliances, and hot water tanks, can also be recycled. Once the box is full, I take it to the scrap-metal yard. Not only do I feel good about diverting waste from the landfill, but I also make a couple of bucks from the effort, since most scrap yards pay for the metal.” Elwell recommends All City Recycling, at 17149 St. Clair Ave.
Heights’ residents can recycle computers and electronics at the Cleveland Heights Service Garage, at 14200 Superior Road, and at Best Buy, Staples, and the county Solid Waste District.
“Before you decide to drop off computers and electronics at a recycling center,” advised Miller, “think about alternatives, such as donating, gifting, or fixing.”
“Where can I recycle batteries is the most asked question we hear from residents,” said Elwell. Alkaline batteries and other primary batteries, such as 9V and D-cell, are not hazardous and can be put in the regular trash.
Rechargeable batteries can be recycled for free through local Call2Recycle drop boxes found in retail stores, such as the Apple Store, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe's.
“We realize that navigating though information about recycling alternatives seems daunting and time consuming,” noted Elwell, “but recycling beyond the blue bin is easier than you think.
"Our go-to resource is the search feature on Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District's website (www.cuyahogarecycles.org): What Do I Do With? It provides concise and clear answers and resources for most household items.”
The Solid Waste District produced a book to help county residents donate items for reuse, in which it lists community service organizations that need and use donated items. Residents can download the book, or request a copy, by visiting www.cuyahogarecycles.org.
“Ideally, recycling should be a last-resort choice,” said Miller. “Simple changes, like using a reusable bag for groceries; joining groups such as Buy Nothing; buying gently used rather than new; and repairing and repurposing can go a long way in reducing waste.”
Catalina Wagers lives in Cleveland Heights' Fairfax neighborhood, and is a co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team.