Resolutions for 2022 and beyond
Late in 2021 the Cleveland Heights Green Team mounted an enthusiastic and effective post-election campaign to keep political yard signs out of landfills.
Residents deposited almost 1,500 placards at designated collection points around the city. (Thanks to Dave’s, Zagara’s, Save-A-Lot and the Coventry Library!)
The Green Team then collected the signs, sorted them, and offered them to candidates for re-use in future campaigns—brilliant! The four who chose to retrieve their signs were Mario Clopton-Zymler, Tony Cuda, Josie Moore and Kahlil Seren. Members of the Green Team delivered the unclaimed signs to the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District for recycling.
But here’s the rub: while the metal frames are fully recyclable, only a tiny amount of plastic collected for recycling ever actually is recycled. With only a miniscule market for recycled plastics, most of it winds up in landfills anyway. Reusing plastic items, including yard signs, is far healthier for the planet than discarding them.
Even better would be a widespread change to sturdy, recyclable cardboard signs. Melody Joy Hart, Craig Cobb and Josie Moore all chose that material for their 2021 campaigns. We displayed some of these signs on our lawns, and can vouch for their durability; they held up well through the election season, and can easily be reused at least once more before being recycled.
Yard signs represent a sizable expense for local campaigns. Belated kudos to Mary Dunbar, former Cleveland Heights council member, who collected and reused her signs through four campaigns! Of course, this requires planning, which is why we bring it up now.
Cleveland Heights City Council members will appoint a replacement for Kahlil Seren after he is sworn in as mayor. Per the charter amendment voters passed in November, however, that seat will be up for election later this year, and again in 2023. We hope all aspiring candidates will plan for reusable and, ultimately, recyclable yard signs.
As far as we know, the slogan, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” was coined for the first Earth Day events in 1970, and promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency, established that year. In 2013, Bea Johnson expanded it to “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot” in Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste.
With the start of 2022, we suggest placing the word “resolve” at the head of that string.
Future candidates are not the only ones who can refuse to add to the plastic choking our landfills, streams and oceans. If you are still bringing groceries home in flimsy plastic bags, please stop, and switch to sturdy reusable ones. That, plus refusing plastic straws and bottled water, represents truly low-hanging fruit.
The fact is, we must not only resolve to fight new plastics manufacturing capacity but learn to do so effectively. Plastics plants emit climate-warming CO2; endocrine-disrupting pthalates in plastics cause obesity and reduce human lifespans; plastics kill wildlife and pollute agricultural soils—just a few of many toxic effects. If you doubt these assertions, a quick Internet search on any of the foregoing phrases will confirm them.
This first month under our city’s new government will also be the first January since 2014 without an annual Democracy Day celebration. Don’t worry—it has merely been moved, at the suggestion of Cleveland Heights Move to Amend, and with the agreement of city council, to the month of June. Details to follow.
Finally, Cleveland Heights residents have been paying a hefty monthly transition fee since we joined Cleveland Water in 2017. Here’s cause to celebrate: this is the last month for those payments! Starting in February, our water bills will be noticeably lower.
Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg
Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg are writers, editors and longtime residents of Cleveland Heights. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.