All across the country, the recycling industry is struggling to make recycling a continuing viable industry. Many changes are occurring in Arizona municipalities as they rise to the challenge to keep recycling profitable. The problem is multifaceted, as are the solutions.
Recycling woes have been a big topic in the news as the recycling industry has struggled to remain profitable in the face of decreasing demand. According to The Wall Street Journal, China in 2017 purchased 14.5 million tons of scrap recyclables, but that was down to 9.4 million tons in 2018. The purchase price has also diminished as well. For example, the price for mixed paper in the U.S. has fallen from $67 to $2. Another consideration is the revamping of collection and processing practices due to the high cost of contaminated recyclables.
Find new markets: This will take time and new relationships on a national level. China’s demand was so significant that other markets have not been developed.
Reduce the cost of recycling by improving the collection process: One successful example can be found in Kingman, Arizona. According to the city’s website, they have worked hard to reduce the contamination rate in their city from 47% to 10%. Up until July of this year, Kingman’s recycling locations were unmanned. They have greatly improved the situation by taking drop-off collection of recyclables in one manned center and separating out dirty containers. They are also working on a pilot program with 500 homes. The program implements twice weekly pick-up — once for recyclables and once for trash.
Other cities are still looking for solutions. The cost of recycling is so high in Surprise that they discontinued their program on Aug. 19. Though residents are encouraged to separate trash from recyclables and use the appropriate containers, everything will go to the landfill until further notice.
Casa Grande is another city that has been negatively affected and has put recycling on standby for the time being.
Educate residents: There have been effective campaigns over the years. Phoenix’s campaign has kept responsible recycling top of mind with its motto, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reconsider, and Reimagine healthy consumption habits to minimize waste in our daily lives.” Residents are encouraged to consider repurposing, reusing and even composting before they even think about recycling.
Phoenix’s newest educational effort is interactive outreach called Oops/Shine On! According to Yvette G. Roeder, senior public information officer for the Phoenix Public Works Department, “We go to neighborhoods with a fairly high recycling contamination rate and we deploy our staff to do audits/inspections on households’ recycling containers. If they are doing well with recycling with very little contamination (like textiles, plastics, food waste, plant waste, etc.), they receive a Shine On tag on their container; if not (with lots of contamination), they receive an Oops! tag on their container. Our team spends about 4-5 weeks in a neighborhood, when households typically are educated on the right way to recycle.” According to Yvette, this has been a very successful program.
General guidelines for recycling
Be sure to check the website for your municipality for a complete listing!
Recyclable: Phoenix recycling features its “top 10 in the bin list.” A more comprehensive list can be found on their website.
- food boxes
- beverage cans
- food cans
- glass bottles
- glass and plastic jars
- plastic bottles
- plastic grocery bags
- plastic wrapping
- dirty diapers
- lawn clippings
- dirty jars
- pizza boxes
- paper towels
- tissue paper
Be considerate and think about the person on the sorting end of recycling who has to sort through the contaminated and stinky products. Also, an item that is reusable does not mean it is recyclable. Bowling balls, padlocks, clothing and the like are often tossed in the recycle can because some well-meaning person does not want to be wasteful. Reusable items should be dropped off at your local thrift store.
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