According to a 2010 report by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, Fairview Park residents separate for recycling about a quarter of the 8,136 tons of solid waste disposed of last year. In Bay Village, which has a volunteer-led environmental team, that figure is 47 percent.
City officials would like to see that percentage rise, and they’re hoping their own newly formed “green team” of residents will help with that goal.
Eight city residents attended the first-ever meeting of the green team July 27 in the basement of City Hall. The city first sought volunteers for the committee last fall.
According to an agenda passed out by mayor Eileen Patton, the goal of the group is to “encourage residents of Fairview Park to participate in ‘green’ efforts to make our city a more environmentally friendly community.”
The first goal will be to increase recycling efforts, Patton said. Although the city privatized trash collection five years ago, the city’s service department currently collects recyclable materials. As the trash collection contract with Republic Services ends in November, the city has put out a call for bids by private companies for both the trash collection and collection of recyclable materials.
The idea is that by getting residents to separate recyclables more, the city will reduce the tonnage of trash it must send to landfills. Reducing this “tipping fee” reduces the amount of money the city has to pay to the landfill.
Service Foreman Jim Maat said the city will incur a cost by hiring a contractor to collect residents’ recyclables, but the intent is that this cost should at least be offset by a reduction in the city’s tipping fee.
The city hopes to contract with a private firm that will provide “single stream recycling” services in which all recyclable materials, from newspapers to bottles to cans, are placed in the same container, Maat said. Cities that launch single-stream recycling programs typically see an increase of 12 to 14 percent in collection of recyclable materials, he added.
The benefit to residents is that recyclable materials do not have to be separated into different bags or containers.
The mayor said she would like to see residents’ old furniture donated to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Cleveland Furniture Bank instead of being left out on the tree lawn to be taken with the other trash. Those discarded pieces of furniture add significantly to the city’s tipping fee, she said.
Patton and Maat want the green team volunteers to promote recycling among residents once the recycling contract is awarded.
Maat said the message may be better received coming from the committee, rather than of from city officials.
“I think they’d rather hear from their neighbors,” he said.
Patton also wants the team to discourage the dumping of trash into the city’s creeks and streams. That’s especially important for Coe Creek, which, when backed up, can contribute to flooding issues in the city.
“It affects people’s lives when it gets backed up,” the mayor said, referring to basement flooding problems Fairview Park and other communities have experienced.
While several of the volunteers attending the meeting had backgrounds in environmental areas, the overall sentiment was that it is not wise to try to force an environmental agenda down people’s throats.
Ryan Shucofsky graduated in May with a degree from Baldwin-Wallace College’s sustainability program. He said he would like to pursue a career in business that includes sustainability goals.
“I’m pretty interested in seeing something like this happen in my hometown,” he said of the green team.
Sam Bobko serves on the green team at his employer, DLZ, where he works as an engineer.
“Some of the projects I do at work correlate with the green initiative,” he told West Life.
The green team’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at Fairview Park City Hall, 20777 Lorain Road.