A large percentage of material currently occupying landfills could have been recycled if only given the chance. We can all help by using city- and county-sponsored recycling programs and by recycling through independent facilities.
More than 60 percent of the material occupying landfills could have been recycled, says Amanda Pratt, corporate communication manager of Rumpke Consolidated Companies. Only a finite amount of landfill space exists, she adds, so people need to recycle in order to conserve the land.
Besides reducing pollution by providing raw material for new products, recycling also creates jobs. Rumpke’s Cincinnati Material Recovery Facility in St. Bernard occupies more than 12 acres of land and employs 140 workers.
After partnering with the city of Cincinnati in 1991, Rumpke now services nearly 200,000 homes and businesses and processes 100,000 tons of material each year, Pratt says. The company provides curbside recycling in both Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and collects material from 30 drop boxes throughout the area.
For urban or suburban dwellers without a recycling program, Pratt suggests checking the Rumpke Web site for the nearest drop box (www.rumpkerecycling.com). While many apartments and condos don’t recycle yet, the cost of recycling often is offset by reduced waste collection.
“People that live in an apartment or an urban setting can go to their landlord and Rumpke can come out and devise a plan where they may have the trash dumpster outside the complex as well as the commercial recycling container,” Pratt says. Of all the material that Rumpke collects, 93 percent is recovered or recycled then processed for manufacturers. Pratt says the remaining 7 percent consists of non-recyclable material placed in the bin by mistake.
Rumpke has specific guidelines for what can be recycled, including newspapers, magazines, corrugated cardboard boxes, telephone books, office paper, junk mail, paper grocery bags, aluminum cans, steel food cans, aerosol cans, glass food and drink bottles and jars (all colors and clear) and No. 1 and No. 2 plastic bottles and jugs. Pratt says some of the big non-recyclable culprits are plastic toys, plastic grocery bags, light bulbs, drinking glasses, dishes and pizza boxes.
“Pizza boxes aren’t acceptable because the grease sinks into the cardboard, and that makes it impossible for us to use,” she says. “As far as plastic goes, it’s the triangle with the chasing arrows is what they’re looking for with a No. 1 or No. 2 inside.”
But don’t chuck that pizza box in the nearest trash can, says Civic Garden Center Youth Education Coordinator Corina Bullock — there’s still another option.
Composting, nature’s way of recycling, is the process of organic material breaking down into soil by the introduction of air, water and “natural critter dwellers,” she says.
While it might not seem an obvious choice for recycling, Bullock says materials that could have been composted occupy 20 percent of space in landfills. Because landfills act as a “giant Tupperware containers” keeping contaminants out of public land and water, materials inside decompose slowly, she says.
“There are pictures of things that come out of the landfill after 10 years — paper, corn, hamburger buns — and they’ve barely changed,” she says. “The newspaper still looks like a newspaper you picked up off your table.”
The Civic Garden Center offers free classes on composting in the early spring and fall. Since the spring class was held in March, Bullock suggests checking out other resources for classes at Park Vine or local libraries.
For do-it-yourselfers, she says the Hamilton County Environmental Services site supplies all the information prospective composters need to get started at www.hcdoes.org (just click on the compost link).
Recycling = dollars
Besides being environmentally responsible, recycling can be lucrative, says Kathy Weber, controller at Garden St. Iron & Metal on Spring Grove Avenue. The metal recycling center pays cash to customers for ferrous metals (steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminum, copper, lead, stainless steel and brass) based on weight.
In addition to the most obvious items — aluminum cans — the facility also accepts aluminum scrap, lead acid batteries, car parts, radiators, appliances, cars, electric motors and car motors. Weber says the process is quick and easy: All customers need is transportation to the site, and the Garden St. staff will do the rest. She says locals will be impressed with the facility that resembles a high tech lab rather than a junkyard piled high with scrap.
When it comes to recycling metals, Weber says we need to redefine our preconceived notion of what’s reusable. She says people ironically pay vendors to haul away old appliances because they don’t know there are any other options — when even the worn-out, scratchy folding aluminum chairs have a second life and can be traded for cash.
“If you would come down and look at some of the stuff that people bring in, you’d be amazed,” she says.
Recycling also pays Montgomery residents for participating in Rumpke’s RecycleBank pilot program. The initiative rewards clients based on the amount of material they recycle each month. Recycling bins contain RFID (radio frequency identification) technology that allows Rumpke to measure the amount of material each home recycles, then converts that activity into RecycleBank Points. Residents can redeem the points for gift cards or products from local retailers. Since its inception in October 2007, the program has been wildly successful, Pratt says.
“So far we’re seeing a lot of success,” she says, “so hopefully it’s something that we can work into in the future for other areas.”
Being the first drive-through recycling center in the area took being a bit of a visionary and a lot of hard work, says Chad Wehrman, part-owner with wife Sandy of Oakley Recycling located on Enyart Avenue.
He says his father started the business more than 35 years ago by knocking on doors and collecting recyclable material with a pick-up truck. Today, operating as a commercial and residential metal recycler, Wehrman says the business feels like part of the community.
He says regular customers are a big part of their business, including contractors as well as residents simply trading recyclables for cash. Wehrman says they make a special effort to help organizations or youth groups such as area girl and boy scouts with fund raising.
“With the girl scouts and boy scouts, we usually give a premium on can prices — whatever the market price, we usually give 5 to 8 cents more,” he says. “We really like to do what we can to help the community while we’re helping the environment, too.” ©