I-Team: Up to 90% of recyclables in Cleveland go to the trash

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CLEVELAND - A FOX 8 I-Team investigation has found nearly all recycling collected by city crews in Cleveland ends up simply dumped with all of the garbage collected.

If you live or work in Cleveland, you might think the bottles, cans, glass and paper you put in recycling bins all gets handled separately helping the environment, but the I-Team has uncovered the secret of what’s really going on with recycling in Cleveland.

We found up to 90% of recycling in Cleveland ends up mixed with regular trash.

The I-Team has spent weeks looking into this issue and we’ve learned most recyclable items collected in the city are ending up in the trash.

Internal memos obtained by the I-Team through public record requests show, "We still continue to push 85-90 percent of the recycling from our residents into trash…”

Meantime, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Darnell Brown, the city's chief operating officer, both told the I-Team on camera, the city's recycling program has completely broken down.

"It’s not working," said Mayor Frank Jackson.

In fact, exclusive I-Team video shows Cleveland recycling getting mixed in with the rest of the trash. We made a surprise visit there, and a supervisor confirmed what had just happened. He said, "One Cleveland truck came in, we inspected it, it was contaminated, we got rid of it."

Mayor Jackson said too many people are putting trash in with recycling, and it doesn’t take much trash to contaminate the entire load.

According to internal records, the problem has been going on for several months.

The mayor noted that the market for bottles, cans, and paper has gotten so bad the city now spends more and more money to collect recycling.

He added, "It costs us twice as much to get rid of recyclables as it would if we just put it in a landfill.” The mayor stressed that he, himself, continues to put items in the bins for recyclables even though he knows it will most likely be dumped in the trash.

Our findings leave taxpayers disgusted. Angelo Lisak, the owner of Mel’s Café in Tremont said,"Why are we recycling?” He added, "What's the sense?"

Those internal memos blame you, at least in part. Memos to the head of Public Works say,"Primary reason is lack of education and enforcement to the Cleveland residents. When we have enough waste collectors we are sending them to the transfer station to help sort our recycling."

The reports also state that an employee of the company that picks up recycling also has stationed a person at the transfer station to review incoming recycling loads.

So what’s being done about it? Again, the problem has gone on for months, and many people in Cleveland are separating recyclables for nothing.

The mayor said the city is going to hire a consultant to study the problem and recommend how to fix it. But there’s no firm timetable. He is hoping to get that done this year.

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