Cleveland delays the start of its new recycling program as the city rebids its disposal contract

 A truck unloads recycling at Kimble Companies in Twinsburg.
A truck unloads recycling at Kimble Companies in Twinsburg. [Mary Fecteau and Margaret Cavalier / Ideastream Public Media]

Cleveland’s recycling program hit another hitch after contract talks with a potential vendor fell through.

The administration of outgoing Mayor Frank Jackson shared the news in a statement posted online Tuesday, setting a new potential start date in the first quarter of 2022.

“Earlier this year, the City selected a new recycling vendor. However, due to Cleveland’s history of excessive contamination, including yard waste in recycling carts, the City and the vendor were unable to agree on contract details,” the news release read. “Services for a new vendor will now need to be rebid, resulting in a revised program start date.”

That leaves the job of resuscitating the recycling program to the incoming administration of Mayor-elect Justin Bibb, who takes office on Monday. During the campaign, Bibb said he would “hit the reset button” on the city’s recycling program.

Now he’ll get the chance to do just that.

The city’s recycling operation came to a halt in April 2020 as the global price of recyclables fell. At the time, Jackson said a disposal contract proposal was too costly for the city. City Hall commissioned a study of Cleveland’s recycling needs and began collecting sign-ups for a smaller, opt-in program.

That opt-in approach was supposed to address the problem of contamination, Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack told Ideastream Public Media.

“I’m not sure why the bid fell through based on contamination,” McCormack said. “Because again, the entire approach of that new program from the administration was said to be to reduce contamination and to focus on what is really recyclable.”

According to the city, more than 27,000 households signed up for the new recycling program. The city plans to retrieve the blue recycling bins from those who did not enroll.

“We heard that the blue cans were going to be taken away. We heard that the program was going to be up and running at the end of the year,” McCormack said. “There’s a lot of concern from my residents about when is this program going to come back.”

With reporting by Amy Eddings.

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