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Cleveland City Council Still Waiting For Trash Collection, Recycling Report

The city has asked Clevelanders to keep sorting and separating their recyclables, even though everything has been going to landfills for months. [Teerasak Ladnongkhun / Shutterstock]
A pile of plastic water bottles

Cleveland City Council members expressed frustration with the city’s waste collection program Tuesday in a committee meeting meant to provide a third-party consultant with council’s input on trash pickup and recycling.

The city brought in GT Environmental last year to evaluate the state of Cleveland’s recycling and trash pickup programs, after the city failed to secure a new recycling contract in April, resulting in all recycling being sent to landfills.

Council members asked for more transparency as the city moves forward with evaluating and updating its recycling program.

An initial report covering the strengths and weaknesses of the program will be available to council and the public soon, said Cleveland Chief Operating Officer Darnell Brown, and will include specific recommendations for how to improve waste collection.

From there, Brown said, the city will need to consider its options before moving forward.

“There’s also a lot of implications that’ll come with any decision you make, whether that’s process or cost or equipment or personnel,” Brown said. “So there’s a lot of work that happens after you get information.”

As the city considers the needs of its residents, education and communication must be considered, said Councilmember Kerry McCormack. Clevelanders will need more information on pickup schedules, what gets recycled and how to get new receptacles if needed, he said.

“When we really deliberate on how we’re going to bring recycling back to the City of Cleveland, it will be in vain unless we have a strong, inclusive, comprehensive communications and educations plan for the community,” McCormack said.

Trash collection analysis will be included in the final report, and Tuesday's meeting also included a discussion of its shortcomings. Multiple council members expressed concern over the infrequency of bulk pickup, which occurs once a month.

The lack of bulk pickup is leading to a spike in illegal dumping around Councilman Joe Jones’ Ward 1, on the southeast side, particularly with old mattresses.

“We have to resolve this crisis, with mattresses on main roads, our streets and our curbs,” Jones said. “We have to do something to change the situation. If not, we’ll see more of the same.”

The city lacks the resources to handle the current amount of waste, said GT Environmental consultant Jim Skora, particularly when it comes to trucks. Cleveland has about 70 collection routes, he said, and the general recommendation is to have 20 percent more trucks than routes. But currently, Cleveland has between 65 and 72 trucks available, Sorka said.

“In order to have an effective collection program, you need to have availability of trucks,” Skora said. “That’s part of some of the problems we saw in our due diligence, is available of trucks and/or staff, to service the routes on a daily basis by ward.”

The report evaluating waste collection in Cleveland was initially expected in December. It will be released after council members’ comments have been included, Skora said.