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New pact allows glass recycling again

WARREN — Beginning in January, recycling receptacles in Trumbull and Geauga counties will begin accepting glass again with the advent of a new contract with Ohio Valley Waste.

The three-year contract will cost the district $1.7 million over the life of the contract, or $572,000 per year.

Ohio Valley Waste stopped taking glass because of difficulty in finding vendors to take the material amid an international market that was no longer as interested in accepting American recyclables.

But, when the solid waste district insisted its next contract include glass, Ohio Valley Waste, Youngstown, sought a new vendor to accept it, and found one, said Jennifer Jones, executive director of the solid waste district.

“The commissioners and the community wanted glass to be accepted, so we asked them to search for a vendor. So they went out and hounded down a vendor to buy it from them,” Jones said.

Glass is easier to recycle and can be recycled in indefinite cycles, unlike plastic which weakens and must be stabilized with new plastics to strengthen it after only one or two cycles.

Plastics recycled through the district far outnumber glass, Jones said.

“We don’t see glass too often anymore — mostly pickle jars and spaghetti sauce jars. It used to be half glass, now it is mostly plastic,” Jones said.

Plastic is so cheap to make and one of the most common materials in throwaway and more permanent packaging, but it is much worse for the environment, Jones said.

“Glass is much better from an environmental standpoint,” Jones said.

While glass is made from sand and breaks back down into sand, plastics are produced in energy intensive processes involving non-renewable substances such as coal, natural gas and crude oil to create polymers. The polymers are long strings of molecules that don’t completely break down in the environment, resulting in small bits of plastics in water and the food chain.

There are several different types of plastic, but not all of it can be accepted in the solid waste district’s receptacles, Jones said.

“We can’t take your kids’ old action figures or Legos,” Jones said. “Typically, any type of plastic you’d get as a container after a purchase from the grocery store is acceptable. But we don’t want that piece of a broken plastic rake or old chairs. Food and beverage containers or product containers are acceptable.”

The district is working on producing new signs for the receptacles, found all over the county for anyone to use, to show recyclers what they can put in the dumpster-like containers and what they cannot put in there, Jones said. The information will also be posted online once the contract starts in January.

In order to combat contaminated receptacles, the district has to target two problems — people who don’t realize that something they are placing in the bin can’t be recycled there, and people who purposefully use them for illegal dumping of trash or large household items, Jones said.

The new signs and an information campaign are expected to help with the first problem.

The district is still working on solutions for illegal dumping, Jones said. Law enforcement, cameras, increased lighting, fines and other options are being considered.

Those who use the receptacles for recycling will find information about what the district can accept and where at www.startrecycling.com.

The waste district is funded with landfill dumping fees and managed by a board comprised of the commissioners of each county.

The board turned down two other bids for the contract Ohio Valley Waste was granted. Kimble Recycling and Waste Disposat of Dover, Ohio, proposed a $2.4 million, three-year contract that would have cost $659,956 the first year, with escalations in 2021 and 2022. PennOhio of Ashtabula proposed a $4.1 million, three-year contract that would have cost $1.36 million each year, according to information provided by the district.

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