Communities in Cuyahoga County are recycling about 50 percent of their waste on average, Diane Bickett, Executive Director of the
Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District
, told the audience at the recent Cleveland Composting and Recycling Forum
has an ambitious goal of reaching zero waste by 2040, which means reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills by 90 percent.
The question now becomes: How does our region advance those goals while encouraging communities with dismal levels of recycling to raise the bar? That was the question that Bickett posed to the crowd during the one-day examination of recycling and composting in our region.
The City of Cleveland has one of the lowest levels of recycling in Cuyahoga County at about seven percent. Cleveland Heights and Lakewood hover around 60 percent, and Pepper Pike is over 70 percent. Bickett said that Cleveland and other cities could improve recycling rates by focusing on new, automated technologies, expanding organic collection, adding more recycling in public spaces, making citywide policy changes, and better educating residents and businesses.
Beyond the sustainability benefits, recycling also creates jobs. "For every job in the disposal industry, 17 are created in the recycling industry," Bickett said.
Given the prowess of the local food and urban agriculture movements in Cleveland, Bickett cited an opportunity to create composting facilities run by volunteers and community organizations that generate nutrient-rich soil.
Councilman Brian Cummins criticized the city's one-size-fits-all disposal fee and unambitious recycling goals (the city aims to recycle up to 25 percent of its waste by building a waste-to-energy facility and rolling out curbside recycling citywide).
Cummins also promoted the idea that recycling could generate local jobs, although he and Bickett acknowledged that recycling programs actually cost cities money.
City of Cleveland representatives were invited to attend the forum but declined.
Source: Diane Bickett, Brian Cummins
Writer: Lee Chilcote