CLEVELAND (WJW) — After more than two years of not recycling, the city of Cleveland is finally implementing a permanent program for its residents.

Back in 2020, FOX 8 I-Team reporters Peggy and Ed Gallek uncovered Cleveland’s recycling contract had expired, with the city still going through the motions of recycling by picking up bins in separate trucks and dumping the waste in the same place as the garbage. Even before that, the I-Team had found the city was doing very little recycling.

In an effort of goodwill, the city spent big money last year to bring in a consultant who concluded Cleveland’s former recycling program was not working and that something else would need to be put in place. Meanwhile, even without a contract, the city still spent millions on continuing to pick up recycle bins.

Now, with a new mayor in place, those who have opted in to the new city recycling program (which is no additional cost to the $8.75 waste management fee) can begin recycling approved items starting June 13.

As of last month, officials said nearly 30,000 households have opted in to take part in the new program.

With the new move, FOX 8 is getting into the nitty-gritty of what recycling in the city means.

Is recycling even worthwhile?

Recycling is one of those things that makes people feel good about themselves. And when done right, recycling can help the planet and reduce carbon emissions. However, as reported by the Atlantic last year, the system worldwide is still far from perfect, with many items ending up in landfills anyway. (China no longer accepting recycle waste from the U.S. has also not helped this situation.)

While polls show most Americans are in favor of the idea of recycling, the EPA reported only about 35% of all recycled waste ends up as intended. Such a low percentage could lead people to wonder why they’re even bothering.

But as Stanford University points out, the average American throws out about seven and a half pounds of waste every day. Anything that “reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators,” as the EPA says recycling does, is better than doing nothing at all.

Where is all of my recycling going with the city’s new program?

The city’s new contract is with a company called Rumpke Waste & Recycling, reportedly one of the largest in the state. Cleveland’s Public Works Department is going to continue picking up the recycling curbside and taking it to Ridge Road Transfer Station. From there Rumpke takes it to Medina County for sorting and onward. The company says most of the recycled materials end up staying in the Midwest.

How do I sign up for the city’s new program?

If you want to take part in the program, go online or call 216-664-3030.

Why do I have to sign up?

The city wants serious recyclers. They know the people going through the effort of signing up (which truly isn’t all that difficult) means they’ll do their best to recycle correctly.

So what can I recycle?

Paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, glass bottles and plastic are the obvious ones (and the items that are most likely to actually be recycled). To make it easier, the city has compiled a list of items they are taking, as seen below.

All recycling must be rinsed and placed inside the blue bin. The best rule of thumb is, “when in doubt, throw it out,” the city says. No need to wish-cycle something unless you’re absolutely sure it’s accepted.

Can I recycle my pizza box?

If your pizza box is miraculously mostly grease-free, then by all means, please recycle. Otherwise, you know what we’re going to say.

But what about the plastic containers that claim to be recyclable, such as take-out clamshells?

Not today.

What about foil?

No.

And all these red Solo cups from the party I just had?

Unfortunately, no. But clear plastic cups are acceptable.

Why can’t I put my recycling in a plastic garbage bag? That’s so much easier.

We know. However, plastic garbage bags are not recyclable. So if you put all of your hand-rinsed, perfectly sorted items inside a plastic bag and then put that in your blue bin, it would be all for naught.

Do I need to squish all of my items before placing in the bin?

Those cardboard boxes from all that online ordering certainly do, but items like cans and bottles only need to be marginally smooshed. Plastic lids should be placed back on the item, while metal lids should be separated.

Do I need to remove labels from cans and jars?

Those can stay on.

I’ve signed up, so now where do I put these stickers the city sent on my recycle bin?

You can do it! See the photos below for placement:

Do I have to sign up every year once I’m part of the new city recycle program?

You do not.

Am I going to feel better about myself now that I’m recycling for real?

Undoubtedly.

Where can I find out more about the program?

Find out more right here.