Oops: Thousands of Dayton waste customers warned about contaminated recycling

A pair of blue recycling bins in the South Park neighborhood were not emptied this month because they contained nonrecyclable trash, including fabrics. City crews put "oops" warning stickers on the containers. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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A pair of blue recycling bins in the South Park neighborhood were not emptied this month because they contained nonrecyclable trash, including fabrics. City crews put "oops" warning stickers on the containers. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

More than 3,100 customers in Dayton received an initial “oops” warning in the first year of the program, which seeks to keep trash out of the recycling stream, according to the city’s public works department.

And during that period, more than 100 customers had their recycling service terminated for repeatedly having trash and nonrecyclable items in their recycling containers.

“We don’t look through your trash,” said Fred Stovall, Dayton’s director of public works. “But when it’s obvious that you put something in that blue recycle bin that we know is not recyclable, then you are getting tagged with an oops notification.”

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Dayton sanitation crews put an "oops" warning sticker on this blue recycling bin in the South Park neighborhood because it was contaminated with trash. The recycling bin contained fabric and other nonrecyclable materials that belong in the landfill. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton sanitation crews put an "oops" warning sticker on this blue recycling bin in the South Park neighborhood because it was contaminated with trash. The recycling bin contained fabric and other nonrecyclable materials that belong in the landfill. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Dayton sanitation crews put an "oops" warning sticker on this blue recycling bin in the South Park neighborhood because it was contaminated with trash. The recycling bin contained fabric and other nonrecyclable materials that belong in the landfill. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Under the oops program that launched a year ago, the city issues warnings to customers whose recycling bins are found to contain items that cannot be recycled.

The first time this happens, the customer is sent a warning letter in the mail.

A second violation results in waste collection crews slapping a warning sticker on the recycling container and the customer receives an additional warning and educational materials in the mail.

If there’s a third violation, the city removes the recycling container and suspends service for one year.

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Waste collection crews empty recycling bins in Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Waste collection crews empty recycling bins in Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Waste collection crews empty recycling bins in Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Of the 3,100 customers who received an initial warning, about 420 had a second violation.

Then after that, about one-quarter of the customers who received a second warning had a third violation, and their service was revoked.

“To me, the program is very successful,” Stovall said, noting that only 3% of customers who received an initial warning had their containers removed.

The program is meant to be educational, but it turns punitive if customers don’t change their ways, officials said.

Contaminated waste contributes to recycling costs, officials said, and right now waste removal company Rumpke pays the city rebates for the clean recycling materials it provides.

But recycling that is contaminated with trash must be taken to the landfill for disposal.

The city’s efforts to educate customers about what is and is not recyclable is clearly working, said John Parker, Dayton’s waste collection manager.

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