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Ohio EPA awards $180,000 in recycling education grants to five Ohio counties

photo of recycling can

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is distributing $180,000 in grants to Athens-Hocking, Mahoning, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca Counties’ solid waste management districts to improve education around recycling.

The program, in collaboration with the nonprofit, The Recycling Partnership, aims to help communities invest in public education about recycling and to improve recycling drop-off locations.

“The goal is to decrease the amount of trash that is being put into the recycling stream and increase how much recyclable material is recovered in Ohio,” said Nichole Lemin, Chief of the Division of Materials and Waste Management at the Ohio EPA.

The grant funds will be used by solid waste management districts primarily to educate about recycling, something Lemin said residents sometimes struggle with.

“In general, [people don’t know] the types of materials that they can recycle,” she said. “I would recommend that folks visit their solid waste management district website to get the most accurate and current information on what their local district is accepting for recyclable materials.”

The counties will implement local projects with the goals of increasing quality of recyclable material, decreasing contamination of recycling bins and improving drop-off recycling programs. The Ohio EPA estimates this project will impact over 190,000 households across the state.

Lemin said Mahoning County will be using its grant money to educate the public and purchase security cameras at drop-off locations.

“They are looking to improve their contamination rates through public education directly to residents and then also purchasing security cameras for their 28 drop-off locations in order to prevent open dumping of trash,” she said.

In addition, Mahoning County also has plans to purchase cameras with artificial intelligence to be placed inside dumpsters. These will be used to identify if materials are recyclable or not.

Ohio EPA and The Recycling Partnership have collaborated for many years, and Lemin said this initiative will build upon previous efforts.

“It really makes sense for us to continue with that partnership, it’s been very good, very effective and we’re really excited at this point to announce these awards and to continue to improve those recycling efforts,” she said.

Lemin said the ultimate goal of local projects is to improve the quality of recycling and decrease contamination.

“In Mahoning County for instance, they estimate that their contamination rates are somewhere between 40 and 45%,” she said. “We hope to see a real improvement in that number as well as improvements across the other solid waste management districts.”

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.