Login | July 09, 2020

Recycling app hits the streets of Akron

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 22, 2019

The city of Akron has rolled out a smartphone app that will help in recycling through the city and will even remind property owners of waste collection times and days.
The app, Akron Recycles, is now downloadable in the App Store and Google Play Store. It contains a “Waste Wizard” tool that identifies which materials are recyclable and which should be sent to the trash.
Most people do not have up-to-date knowledge about what materials may be recycled, said City Spokesperson Ellen Lander Nischt.
“The service department came to Mayor (Daniel) Horrigan about four years ago with a problem,” said Nischt. “Most recyclable bins contained contamination—non-recyclable items mixed with recyclable ones.
“The problem was that the standards had changed for what was acceptable in recycling,” she said. “For instance, people used to be able to put recyclables into plastic bags. Now, they can’t do that. Anything in a bag gets put into the general trash. Glass used to be acceptable and now it isn’t. And there were a number of other changes people were not aware of.”
As a result, despite the citizen’s good intentions, much of the material designated for recycling just went straight into the trash.
An effort at informing the public about all of those changes, including sending mailers and text messages, was less than successful, said Nischt.
So, entering into a number of partnerships, the city created a study of resident recycling habits in preparation for applying for grants to help solve the situation.
That study was a “feet on the street” campaign by the city’s trash collection division that appraised resident cooperation with the city’s recycling program, said Daniel Dempsey, solid waste and recycling manager for the city.
“Feet on the street” was a part of a “Recycle Right” program to figure out how best to help residents recycle properly.
Dempsey said that the “feet on the street” campaign involved tagging recycling bins to let residents know when they were recycling incorrectly. Residents then would have specific information about their recycled materials written on a tag that was attached to their recycling bin.
The city then applied for and received a grant from the for the Akron Recycles app through The Recycling Partnership (https://recyclingpartnership.org/), which is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping municipalities with their recycling efforts, said Nischt.
The grant will cover the first two years of the app’s service, after which the city will decide if it is worth it to pick up the cost of about $10,000 per year.
“This campaign taught us that most residents want to recycle correctly and support a sustainable program in Akron, but they don’t always know what should and should not be placed in recycling carts,” said Horrigan. “Through the free Akron Recycles app, we can offer residents continuing education in a convenient, easy-to-use format that is available at your fingertips.”
The app also includes the ability to look up trash collection and recycling schedules by address, said Dempsey.
The Waste Wizard tool operates visually, showing pictures of which waste is recyclable when an object is searched through the app. It also posts reminders of holidays and to call 3-1-1 to schedule large waste removal.
Dempsey said that the goal of the entire program, including the app, is to reduce the recycling contaminant over time through educating the public. “A 40% reduction in contamination would be great,” he said, but anything over 20% would be a success.
The city has plenty of recyclables to deal with, Dempsey said. “We have 8,200-8500 tons of it per year.”
Recyclables go to a service run by Waste Management.
Akron is one of the few municipalities in the area that pays residents to recycle, giving them a $2.50 per month discount off their water bill, said Dempsey.
Dempsey thinks that the entire effort is catching on with the public.
“We noticed a difference after the “feet on the street” campaign,” he said. “That was a tool to better educate the public. Our initial feedback has been very encouraging. The operators have been saying that they have noticed a difference in the recycling content. We are continuing to study the effects of this program, and I am very anxious to see the final results.”

For more information about the City of Akron’s recycling program, visit www.akronohio.gov/recycling.