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City of Cleveland struggling in attempt to bring back recycling program

Since April of 2020, all of the city's recyclable items have been taken out to a landfill with the garbage.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland residents, like many other cities, separate recyclable items into a separate bin for trash day.

But since April of last year, all those recyclable items have been taken to a landfill with all the other garbage. 

If it sounds like a waste of time, you’re exactly right. 

Cleveland’s recycling program has been offline for a number of reasons – including a changing recycling market. The reason recyclables have ended up in a landfill is because the city hasn’t been able to get a favorable contract from a vendor to do the recycling. 

Part of that has to do with the high contamination rate of the recyclables that are in the can, meaning people are recycling the wrong things. 

Second, the national and international market for recyclable goods has tanked. In most cases, it’s not profitable. But city council members say the program isn’t about money, it’s about saving the environment.

"We don’t have time to waste with climate change and the environment. So we’ve got to figure this out and we’ve got to work with our community to properly recycle," says Councilman Kerry McCormack.

"Just about every other municipality is in the same boat. Everybody is trying to figure out what recycling looks like, how they’re going to go about it," adds Councilman Anthony Brancatelli. 

The Mayor’s office says they’re working to restart the program by putting out bids for a new contract, hiring a recycling coordinator, and launching a new opt-in process for residents.

The problem is that there’s no timeline for when this will all happen. One councilmember says he was told by the end of the year, but he’ll believe it when he sees it.

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