Rumpke, in partnership with the Ohio EPA and the Recycling Partnership, is on a mission to teach homeowners what should and shouldn't go into a recycling bin. The company is now riffling through containers in Cincinnati to find out if people are following the rules. It was in Fairfield last month.
The latest numbers show Fairfield was able to reduce contaminants from 22% to 12%. Rumpke saw similar numbers in Centerville.
Even though many items can be recycled, what Rumpke takes is limited because of damage to its machines. Recycling mistakes are costing the company $1.5 million a year.
"I think it's a lot of good intentions," says Rumpke spokeswoman Molly Yaeger. "People see plastic and think it can be recycled. They see metal and that can be recycled. It can be, just not in your curbside recycling container. There's speciality outlets you need to take that type of material back to."
Here's an example of what Rumpke is doing. One Friday morning in August, Jake Love put some Fairfield residents on notice.
Rumpke sorted through more than a ton of recycling in Fairfield and found certain items that continually end up in containers but shouldn't. They include plastic bags, clothing, batteries, flammables, scrap metal, pots and pans, and tanglers like cords, hoses and chains.
After the first offense, Love leaves a "Good Try" tag. After that it's an "Oops" and Rumpke doesn't take your recycling until you've taken out the forbidden items.
Rumpke says it is trying not to discourage customers with this educational process.
This story was originally published Aug. 12, 2019, and has been updated.