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More Cuyahoga County residents can now add plastic ‘tubs’ to curbside recycling

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A growing number of Cuyahoga County waste processors now offer curbside recycling of polypropylene tubs, which include things like sour cream containers, fruit and yogurt cups, and tubs for butter and whipped toppings.

Thanks to a grant from The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing opportunities for recycling, Rumpke Waste & Recycling now joins Waste Management and Republic Services in accepting the tubs.

Residents should thoroughly rinse the containers, allow them to dry and replace the lids, when possible, before pitching them in the recycling bin. Do not “nest” the items inside of each other.

The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District’s “Cuyahoga Recycles” website includes a list of communities that are served by companies that accept the tubs. The website also provides information on other plastic containers — bottles and jugs, primarily — that can be added to curbside bins once emptied and rinsed.

The $775,000 grant received by Rumpke, which was matched by the company, is being used for robotics that will “pick” the polypropylene tubs off the line so that they can be processed separately.

“It was a great opportunity for Rumpke to extend and make larger our acceptable list, and it was a great opportunity to invest in some new technology,” says Jeff Snyder, senior recycling manager with the company.

According to Snyder, end users — those who ultimately turn the plastic containers into other products — are currently clamoring for the same polypropylene tubs that were an afterthought a few years ago.

“Right now, there’s not even enough polypropylene being recovered to keep up with demand,” reveals Snyder.

Snyder explains that the recycled tubs formerly yielded two colors of plastic: gray and black. The color scheme was fine for rope and twine, sandbags and plastic paint containers — though the material often had to be supplemented with virgin polypropylene — but businesses that wanted to offer consumers a glimpse of the products inside were out of luck.

Materials experts recently developed a method for creating clear plastics from recycled polypropylene, which led to the increase in demand. Snyder says the shift has occurred in just the last few years.

Nonetheless, many companies that collect curbside recycling still do not accept the plastic tubs because of costs associated with machinery and manpower. The Cuyahoga Recycles website notes that one such company is Kimble Recycling & Waste Disposal, which serves much of Cuyahoga County.

Nonetheless, creative folks will continue to find ways to ensure that such materials do not add to the waste stream.

Consumers should try to avoid single-use plastics, which waste resources, clutter landfills and too often become litter. According to the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, only about 9 percent of plastic packaging is currently recycled.

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