A growing number of Dayton households are participating in the city’s recycling program, but the amount of materials being collected and recycled continues to fall.
Most waste residents generate is recyclable, but too often people throw recyclable items in the trash and they wind up at the dump, officials say.
Less than six in 10 Dayton households have recycling containers, and even residents who use the blue bins sometimes trash items they don’t need to or contaminate their recycling, requiring it to be sent to the landfill.
In 2017, the city plans to launch a new digital tool to remind residents of their waste collection schedules and better inform citizens about what items can and cannot be recycled, said Fred Stovall, Dayton’s director of public works.
“Probably, 90 percent of your household trash is going to be recyclable,” he said. “Paper, cardboard, plastic, cans, your bottles — all of that should go in your recycling container.”
In 2017, the city collected about 5,444 tons of recycling from Dayton residential customers through Dec. 20, according to city data. The city turns over the collections to Rumpke Waste & Recycling for sorting, processing and ultimately delivery to end users such as manufacturers for reuse.
Recycling collections are expected to end the year slightly down from 2016, when the city collected about 5,718 tons of materials, officials said.
Recycling volumes have declined every year since 2014, when the city collected 6,528 tons of recycling. The city offers bi-weekly recycling pick up.
The city currently pays Rumpke $10 per ton to dispose of recycling. In contrast, the city has to pay a $38.25 tipping fee for every ton of trash it sends to the landfill.
In 2017, the city saved $153,800 in tipping fees from waste that was recycled and not trashed.
Just about 30,800 Dayton households participate in the city’s voluntary recycling program, Stovall said.
That compares to the roughly 55,000 households with trash service.
The number of households with recycling bins has grown 28 percent since 2013. But officials said they are disappointed that recycling tonnage has headed in the opposite direction.
To try to boost recycling, the city plans to launch a new app in the next few weeks called Dayton Collects.
The app will allow users to set a reminder on their mobile devices of when their trash and recycling should be put at the curb for pickup, Stovall said.
Additionally, users will be able to learn about what materials are recyclable and how to avoid contaminating their recycling, he said.
“If you are not properly using the container, just having it and participating in the program isn’t helping us any,” Stovall said.
About 20 percent of materials that are collected to be recycled are sent to the dump because of contamination, Stovall said.
Most frequently, people put their recycling in plastic trash bags, which cannot be recycled by Rumpke, he said.
Plastic bags are probably the biggest issue the recycling industry faces, in part because they can become tangled around recycling equipment and cause damage, said Jonathan Kissell, a Rumpke spokesman.
But more importantly, workers do not know what is inside of the bags, and they do not have a lot of time to try to figure it out, he said.
“If a 30 pound black garbage bag comes in, we have no idea if that is full of aluminum cans or if it is full of yard waste,” he said. “And if we open up that bag and it’s full of yard waste, we have a bigger problem than we had before.”
Rumpke tries to make quick decisions to try to recover as much material as possible, he said.
Other types of contamination from curbside recycling include batteries, Christmas decorations, scrap metals, wood, food waste and aerosol cans, Kissell said.
Lithium ion batteries and propane tanks and other hazardous items do not belong in the recycling bins because they can break and spark a fire, which put Rumpke employees, he said.
Other items that should not be recycled put the company’s sorting machines at risk, such as Christmas lights, dog leashes and garden hoses, Kissell said.
And Rumpke generates materials for manufacturers to reuse, and too much contamination mixed in with the recyclable materials can lower its quality and make it unusable, he said.
Kissell said Rumpke believes the Dayton Collects app will make a significant difference to educate people on recycling and encourage them to divert more materials from the landfill.
“Rumpke and the city of Dayton has had a great partnership for many years, and our goals are the same: We want to recycle more and trash less,” Kissell said.