Recycling is a critical step that the City government can take to reduce waste, create local jobs, and mitigate climate change. Cities across the country are working to boost recycling efforts to better control waste disposal and landfill fees, improve environmental impacts – and align administrative policy with community waste reduction efforts.

As Mayor, I will make recycling a priority. In my administration, Cleveland’s recycling program will be part of a greater effort to pursue “green actions” with good public policy and best practices, with the goal of becoming a more sustainable city.

After the City’s recycling contract lapsed in 2020, I led City Council’s efforts to improve resident outreach and examine the recycling market for better opportunities to meet our goals. The Jackson Administration’s recent announcement of an opt-in recycling program is a good first step to get the city back on track. But, much more work is needed to elevate recycling as a priority and realize its benefits for our city, our neighborhoods, and our residents.

Reboot Recycling

A more sustainable Cleveland must center around environmental justice and inclusion. This starts with recycling – and neighborhood, resident and business engagement will be crucial for any effort to be successful. A comprehensive solid waste contract will be crucial – including key components for recycling, consistent municipal control and leadership, good management practices with dedicated resources, and workforce stability measures.

I want to lead Cleveland to environmental sustainability. To do so my proposal focuses on several key components – including education, strengthening existing and creating new partnerships, innovative funding models and small business investments, building out infrastructure to support a local circular economy, and enhancing technology.

  • Education: Last measured in 2018, Cleveland’s recycling performance was dismal, with only 7.5% of waste material recycled. The rest went to a landfill. Based on an audit of material, about 68% of collected recyclables was contaminated. The responsibility for this lies with the City. Moving forward, the City must do better with resident education and outreach to increase our recycling rates. I will instruct key leadership staff across the administration to jointly develop an education program to improve recycling rates and lower contamination rates. Education will focus on what can be recycled, what steps will need to be taken to recycle properly as well as the benefits recycling has for our community.
  • Partnerships: My team will engage with local, state, and regional organizations already active in recycling efforts – building on those efforts and providing extra resources to support them. I also propose to launch the “Cleveland Recycling Partnership” – a representative group dedicated to recycling improvement, much like what the Denver Recycling Partnership does. The Denver Recycling Partnership engages the full recycling supply chain – from the corporations that manufacture products and packaging, to local governments charged with recycling, to industry end markets, haulers, material recovery facilities and converters.
  • Innovative Funding: My administration will seek new and innovative funding ventures to support local businesses. The funding can be a mixture of government and private investors to support a local infrastructure; small business investments; and identification of resident-led, neighborhood-driven recycling projects. A pilot project initiative will help jumpstart this work.
  • Infrastructure: Improving local infrastructure will include finding and/or investing in a local facility so that waste material does not have to be hauled great distances. Infrastructure investments should include incentives for the private sector to increase its domestic recycling infrastructure. We have learned the hard way through the COVID-19 pandemic that without local infrastructure, it is difficult to launch emergency response activity. Rebuilding infrastructure can bolster the economy and create good jobs for Cleveland families.
  • Technology: Communities can begin to invest in innovative technologies to process materials efficiently and improve quality to boost increased demand for recycled materials. Local investments and other local expertise can be tapped to build resources for recycling. National and international organizations have already laid the groundwork that we can use to better meet our local needs.

Starting at City Hall

As Mayor, I will invest in sustainability and build partnerships to make Cleveland a leader in recycling. Under my leadership, we will collect good data, build on best practices, cultivate innovation, and use our collective energy to advance recycling.

I intend to convert the Office of Sustainability into a research and policy office so that our initiatives are comprehensive and meaningful. A recycling managing director will be designated – and be responsible for coordinating all the administration’s efforts, working across departments, and partnering with City Council and other government officials.

Additionally, to support other innovative funding efforts, I will submit a recycling ordinance to City Council to bolster our local efforts. Modeled after legislation drafted by two state legislators in New York, it would help convince product manufacturers to invest in a recycling system and to help mitigate the environmental impact from the waste their products produce