Chances Are You Are Recycling Incorrectly

There has been so much attention paid in the media lately to recycling. It seems that most Lakewood residents are more confused than ever on what is to be recycled and what is not. As a 20 year employee of the Lakewood Refuse and Recycling Department, I see first-hand every day that many folks are very conscientious when it comes to their recycling, but just do not know what the guidelines are.  

I could talk about how to dispose of everything from cell phones, tires to computers, but you can go to or for that information. I want to concentrate on what goes in your recycling can and what does not. All it takes is one item that does not belong in the can and the entire load is contaminated. Here is a simple rule, “If in doubt, leave it out.” The main items that are recyclable are as follows: 1. Paper and cardboard. Paper is the most recycled material in the country. Paper should be placed loose in the cart. If you must use bags to hold your recycling, choose brown bags instead of plastic. Recycling centers DO NOT want plastic bags. Flatten cardboard. If at all possible, all cardboard should be broken down and placed in the cart. 2. Metal and aluminum cans. All metal and aluminum cans such as pop, beer, soup, tuna and pet food cans should be EMPTIED, RINSED and then recycled. 3. Recyclable glass refers to food and beverage bottles and jars of any color. Again, it must be EMPTIED and RINSED. 4. Cartons, including milk, juice, soup/broth and wine cartons. I cannot stress how important it is to EMPTY and RINSE all recyclable items. Believe it or not, that pretty much covers what should be in your Lakewood recycling cart.

Now here are some very important DON’TS. Do not place plastic bags, mesh food bags and plastic film in your cart. Bags and film get tangled in the sorting machines at the recycling facilities and cause major problems for the recycling process. Do not place scrap metal, car parts, wire and electrical cord in the carts. Styrofoam is probably the biggest contaminate that ends up in the Lakewood recycling carts. Not only should it not be in the carts, but if you place a TV box on the tree lawn with the Styrofoam in it, the box will be collected as trash. Break up the Styrofoam and place it in the trash cart or take it up to the Lakewood Recycle Center. Ceramic or heat resistant glass such as dishware and ovenware, mirrors and window glass, light bulbs, cell phones, empty paint and aerosol cans, empty motor oil and antifreeze jugs, plastic cups and utensils and durable plastic toys DO NOT BELONG IN THE RECYCLING CART. Small appliances of any sort and all wood items DO NOT go in the recycling cans as well.   

Just because these items I have listed above do not belong in the Lakewood recycling cart does not mean that they cannot be recycled. Many items can be brought to the recycling center on Berea Rd. and disposed of properly. Again, or are great sources for information for all sorts of recyclable and non-recyclable items and materials.

As all of us Lakewood residents are aware, Lakewood is the home to approximately 50,000 residents in a about a seven mile radius. That is a lot of folks in a small area and on trash collection day it can be quite a challenge,  especially since most of the toters and carts are picked up with an automated truck. Here are some very important steps that can aid in the collection of trash and recycling immensely.

First, your carts MUST be accessible. Most of the carts are collected by an automated truck and the truck must have adequate space to reach your cart. If you live on a non-parking side of the street there usually is not an issue. Place the cart no further than 3 feet from the curb with the lid opening facing the street. If you have multiple carts on the tree lawn, leave at least 6 inches between the carts. This allows for the automated arm to grab it securely without knocking down the remaining carts. Do not place carts behind trees or more than 3 feet from the curb. Second, if you live on the side of the street where cars are parked, that presents some serious issues. The best scenario is to place your cart in the driveway so no parked car can obstruct the automated collection process. If the driveway is not an option, place your cart on each side of the driveway in the street, right against the curb. This way a parked car cannot block your cart. There are obviously exceptions to these rules in a city as congested as Lakewood, but these are some simple guidelines to follow.

Since there are many dead-end, one-way and very busy streets in Lakewood, all carts are not picked up by the automated truck. These exceptions have to be retrieved by a refuse worker, dragged to the rear of the truck, and dumped into the truck using a tipping mechanism. This is a very labor-intensive process. To avoid unnecessary labor, if your trash can and especially your recycling cart are not very full, wait till the following week to set it out, especially in the winter months. Please keep in mind that you DO NOT have to put your carts out every week.

On a related note, one of the most common complaints I hear from Lakewood residents is that they are very frustrated with neighbors putting trash out on the wrong day. As a resident of Lakewood myself, it really bothers me when trash is out on the tree lawn when it is not pick-up day. Please be courteous to your fellow Lakewoodites and abide by the trash regulations. Trash/recycling/yard waste should be put out no earlier than 6:30pm the day before your pick-up date. Let’s keep Lakewood beautiful!  

Once again, Lakewood is a very vibrant and congested city, which makes quite a challenge for the fine men and women of the Refuse and Recycling Department.  We collect trash, recycling, yard waste, and perform many other duties daily, regardless of the severe north coast weather. We are proud to serve the fine residents of Lakewood and appreciate it if you can do your best to make our job easier. For more information on trash and recycling in the city of Lakewood you can go to,, or call the Lakewood Refuse and Recycling Department at 216 252 4322.

Denis DeVito

City of Lakewood employee(refuse/recycling department) and life long resident of Lakewood. 

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Volume 14, Issue 21, Posted 3:08 PM, 11.07.2018