We ended 2019 optimistic that a major step was being taken to support the recycling effort when national food chains joined local governments to eliminate single-use plastic bags. These bags clog waterways, endanger animals and take up valuable space in landfills.

In addition to plastic bags, the stores pledged to encourage the use of reusable bags and to get rid of plastic water bottles and move to reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging within the next five years.

Though there was pushback from some Ohio state lawmakers attempting to prohibit local communities from legislating bans on these bags, an unexpected culprit surfaced halting the movement.

Stores quickly abandoned the reusable bag movement when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation in February of 2020. Fear of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 byany means – including reusable sacks – put the single-use plastic bags back into circulation. This was a cautious though necessary move by stores because scientists knew so little about the spread of the highly contagious and deadly disease.

On a related front, the temporary shutdown of the state slowed the collection of recyclable materials as haulers took steps to keep employees safe.

Now, with COVID-19 vaccines in play to slow the spread of the virus, there are signs that we could be heading back to some sense of normalcy. And that means we can again focus on the environment, including the need to recycle.

Several Chagrin Valley communities are taking steps to remind residents about the importance of recycling and just how to do it. It seems area residents remain a bit confused about the materials that can be recycled and just how to accomplish the task.

In Pepper Pike, Service Director Robert Girardi and Councilman Scott Newell worked together on a video to show residents the right way to recycle. If bags of recyclables are contaminated with food or garbage, haulers have no other choice but to dump the whole load into a landfill, so none of those cans or plastic bottles will ever be given a chance to be turned into another product.

In the video, Mr. Girardi looks through a randomly selected group of bags marked for recycling and finds chicken bones, tissues, used paper towels and even lint – all items that should be in the garbage bin.

In Hunting Valley, Mayor Bruce Mayec and Council Clerk Harry Hawkes, Jr. are making responsible recycling a priority by developing an informational flyer detailing “yes” and “no” examples of materials to put in the recycling collection bin. Once the flyer is finalized, the village plans to apply for a grant to pay for informational posters.

We applaud the efforts of these two communities and many others across Northeast Ohio that encourage residents to reduce, reuse, recycle. Collections differ in local cities, villages and townships, so residents need to reach out to their local governments to obtainthat information.

Recycling does not stop at plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Computers and old clothing can be recycled, but not curbside or in your collection bin. These items must be taken to specific collection sites. Old single-use plastic bags must be taken to collection bins at participating grocery stores to be recycled.

Information is readily available. Residents should check websites of their communitiesfor details on recycling practices.

Visit cuyahogarecycles.org on the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District website for detailed information. Geauga residents should visit startrecycling.com for tips from the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Management District. The Times’ award-winning and in-depth series “Turning point for recycling” is available as a free e-book on our website ChagrinValleyToday.com.

Let’s make getting back to recycling one of our New Year’s resolutions.

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