City of Cleveland responds to recycling incident

Recent reports indicate city waste intended for recycling is going to the landfill instead.

City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s office announced the following in a media release April 29:

“You may have recently seen media reports
regarding changes in the way we handle residential recycling and where those materials
ultimately end up. We think it is important to share with you how we got where we are and
where we intend to go moving forward. As a City, we remain committed to being good
environmental stewards and we remain committed to recycling.
Residential recycling is collected by employees from our Department of Public Works and those
materials are taken to our Ridge Road Transfer Station before being hauled away by a third
party agency for processing. Our contract for handling those recycled materials expired on April
1, 2020. In anticipation of that contract expiring, we went out to bid on two occasions. The first
time, no companies bid to take our recycled materials.
The second time we attempted to secure a new contract for these services, we received one bid.
This bid would have charged the City of Cleveland tonnage costs that were well above market
prices – potentially increasing our program costs by $6 million annually.
These unbudgeted, increased costs can be attributed to several factors. First, fundamental
changes in the global market for recycled materials has changed dramatically since our citywide
program was launched. When we launched our program, we were being paid for our materials.
This is not the case any longer. Second, the company that bid on our contract had higher than
anticipated transportation costs dues to the fact that materials would be hauled to Southwest
Ohio. Finally, our rate of contamination in our materials is higher than we would like to see –
about 68% of recycled materials are contaminated and have to be sent to a regular landfill –
which increases the price we would have to pay.
We have selected a consultant to evaluate the entirety of how we address our local waste stream
– including regular solid waste and recycling. As a part of this effort we have tasked this
consultant with identifying what makes sense based on our local context, what is consistent with
our commitment to environmental sustainability, and what is financially responsible. We expect
this work will take a few months to complete and during this process we intend to have
opportunities for public input.”

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