The Recycling Process
What happens when recycling leaves your curb?
Curbside recycling happens in most communities in Cuyahoga County.
Where does your recycling go and what happens once it is picked up?
Unless your community requires you to keep some items separate, curbside recycling is mixed together loose in a recycling bin, bag or cart. An automated truck picks up the bin, bag or cart and empties it into a large vehicle which makes stops at many houses along the way.
When the collection truck is full, it delivers the recycling to a transfer station where the materials are transferred to a larger vehicle for hauling to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). A collection vehicle may also haul directly to the MRF.
Whether your recycling is picked up by your city or a private company, recyclables from Cuyahoga County go to one of three MRFs in the area. Owned and operated by private companies (Kimble Co. in Twinsburg, Republic Services in Oberlin and Waste Management in Akron), each MRF accepts, sorts and processes tons of recyclables every day. All of these facilities accept aluminum cups, metal cans, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, paper and boxes plus plastic bottles and jugs.
The MRF is a large facility with many conveyors, belts and machinery. The delivery vehicle is weighed as it enters and exits. The recycling is tipped on the building floor, then scooped up by a front end loader and placed on the sorting line. Large objects and contamination are removed first. The recyclables travel through an automated sorting system which uses a disk screen, magnets, optical sorters and workers on the line to separate the materials. The sorted materials are baled and sold.
Tips to Recycle Correctly
There are core items that belong in curbside recycling: aluminum cups, cans, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, paper and boxes plus plastic bottles and jugs. See how to recycle in Cuyahoga County.
All recyclable items should be commingled, or mixed together. Items should be placed loose - not in bags - in your bin or cart before being taken to the curb.
Recycling should be empty, clean and dry. It helps keep critters away and allows the process stay a bit cleaner. Also, putting the wrong recyclables into your bin or bag may cause the entire load to be thrown out as trash. It is best to follow the list of basic items that goes into the recycling bin.
It is important to recycle, but it is just as important to recycle correctly. The Solid Waste District encourages everyone to recycle right.
Contamination, China and Recycling in the News
Recycling contamination is an issue across the nation and world, but is also a major problem here in Cuyahoga County.
Local and national media outlets have reported on how we were affected by new environmental policies. In 2018, China implemented restrictions and shut its border to waste imports. Many stories focused on China's decision and how it effected the world, recycling contamination and markets, best practices for recycling, and the path forward for recycling programs.
Trash and Landfills
There are no active landfills in Cuyahoga County. The trash generated in our homes, businesses and schools is collected at the curb or site and taken to one of the waste transfer stations in the county. From the transfer facility, the trash is moved over the road to landfills located throughout Ohio and beyond.
Landfill tours and open houses are sometimes offered by the company that operates the site. Learn more about landfills.