Recycling’s Real Results

recycling dos and don'ts
Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful developed materials to educate about proper recycling tactics

Lucas County’s Recycling Continues To Make Progress

Ever since elementary school, people have been taught the rule of three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. The first two are easy: reduce your waste by making mindful choices and reuse products you already have so as not to create more waste. However, recycling proves to be a challenge for some. 

Luckily, Lucas County’s Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful program provides great resources and local support to help the area’s residents learn to recycle properly. 

The average American throws away about 185 pounds of plastic each year, and an estimated 50 billion pieces of litter mar the roads and waterways in the United States. Recycling packs many environmental benefits that help keep not only the area, but the world as a whole cleaner and safer. 

Recycling conserves energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces greenhouse gasses and conserves natural resources. Items like paper, glass, metals, plastic and more are eligible to be recycled, but typically require some preparation in order to do so properly.

Recycling Locally

Adam Cassi, executive director of Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful, said the mission of the organization is to educate the public on how to properly recycle, as well as come up with programming to ensure these efforts are widely spread throughout the area.

“Recycling is a business,” Cassi said. “The more money it makes, the more things they’re going to recycle. So the more helpful we are, the better with that. And it doesn’t just cost the recycling industry – it eventually trickles back down to whoever’s paying for the recycling service; whether that’s a city or township or municipality, that’s eventually going to get to the residents through taxes.” 

In most municipalities, like Toledo, Sylvania and Maumee, recycling is paid for in some way through taxes, so every resident can have a curbside container. People get the recycling bin, check the local schedule on when recycling pickups are and then leave it on the curb. However, if you live in a township, typically residents have to pay for recycling on their own – and garbage too. 

For those who can’t afford to pay the curbside recycling fee, there are many dropoff locations where you can take your collected recycling. Lucas County Solid Waste Management, who works closely with Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful, sponsors more than 20 locations to drop off recycling, and these are mostly found behind Kroger grocery stores or municipal buildings.


dropoff locations for recycling
Recycling can be dropped off at locations around town

Dos and Don’ts

Most of the time, people struggle to know the rules of what can and cannot be recycled. Cassi said that typically, paper, cardboard and aluminum are recycled correctly, but people make mistakes when it comes to plastic recycling or accidentally contaminating a whole bin.

Recycling doesn’t have to be a difficult task, as long as you brush up on the dos and don’ts beforehand. Making sure you rinse the products you are recycling so there is no waste is a huge first step, as well as ensuring you do not contaminate your recycling bin with items that are unable to be recycled like clothing, electronics, food waste and more. Other items like plastic bags, either holding the recyclable items or being recycled in and of themselves, are a huge problem for contamination. Entire batches of recycling will be sent back to the landfill if not handled properly, so it is imperative to learn the guidelines.

recycling dos and don'ts
Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful developed materials to educate about proper recycling tactics

Cassi and Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful, through the group’s nonprofit funding, have free educational programs that help seamlessly transition young people, families and other individuals into living a lifestyle of reducing waste through recycling. The organization will go to classrooms, youth clubs, day camps, afterschool programs, community groups and more to help spread the word.

The programming is tailored to fit each age group, be it elementary, middle or high school students, as well as colleges and adult organizations, with learning standards for each group in mind. These lessons, presentations and interactive workshops help answer questions, teach proper practices and emphasize the importance of doing your part.

Comparing Efforts, Moving Forward

As far as other communities, Lucas County holds its own. Julie Riley, district manager of Lucas County Solid Waste Management District, said between residential, commercial and industrial tons, the county was able to recycle 423,931 tons of waste in 2021. This is slightly less than the 2020 numbers, but could also be attributed to other industries not submitting 2021 reports.

Though the 2022 numbers have not yet been reported, Riley did share that the drop-off locations collected 7,738,560 pounds, or 3,869.28 tons, of bottles and cans, and 7,875,862 pounds, or 3,937.93 tons, of mixed fiber.

Though there has been a lot of improvement on a larger scale with waste management over the years, there is still plenty of work to be done. Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful recently hosted a restaurant week that featured restaurants throughout Northwest Ohio participating in more sustainable efforts while running their businesses.

With food alone, waste has grown by 204% since the 1960s. Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful partnered with Leadership Toledo to launch a Sustainable Restaurant Program during Toledo’s Restaurant Week. Participating restaurants used less plastic items, no straws unless specifically requested, implemented compostable products, placed orders in bags that were not plastic and even had better options for recycling.

Because of this program, restaurants have kickstarted these initiatives year round instead of just for Restaurant Week. This step in the right direction can continue with the support of residents, with studies finding that customers are willing to pay more and travel further for greener establishments and 60% of consumers rating environmental integrity as a deciding factor in where to spend money.

Getting Involved

Cassi said Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful is going to continue creating programs like the Restaurant Week partnership to find more ways to involve the community in recycling efforts, so people should be on the lookout for future projects.

Because of the great importance surrounding recycling and waste management, volunteers are heavily encouraged. You can easily get involved by visiting the nonprofit’s website and heading to the volunteer page. Volunteers can Adopt-A-Road, plant trees and, yes, recycle with Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful all by filling out a simple informational form. You can also learn more by connecting with the organization at different events and public happenings.

As far as personal importance goes, Cassi is incredibly passionate about recycling. He believes everyone should focus on and become passionate about creating sustainable practices for a sustainable future.

“I really think that anybody who’s got kids and is looking toward the future of what we’re doing to our environment needs to be on board with making sustainable changes,” Cassi said. “It’s not a matter of limiting your negative impact on the environment, because that’s still a negative impact. It is really how you adjust your lifestyle to have a positive impact on the environment – that’s the only way to make a sustainable future.”