Cities across the country are examining methods to cut back, or even eliminate, recycling programs to save money, even though industry experts say costs could be cut by just encouraging residents to be more responsible.
Recycling costs are rising—in some cases even doubling—in communities across the United States. This is coupled with less demand for recycled materials internationally and lower oil prices driving down the costs of producing new materials. Yet industry experts say enough demand still exists to fund recycling. The problem instead is that municipalities and residents inject too much garbage into the recycling stream, clogging sorting facilities and requiring more time and labor to remove.
“We’re seeing some local governments are evaluating their recycling operations, and a handful of them are moving toward making cuts to respond to some of the cost pressures,” says David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America. “The problem is, they’re unknowingly causing the increases by allowing residents to clog up the recycled waste stream with non-recyclable components.”
By and large Americans support recycling efforts, but as the rules have changed in terms of what can and can’t be recycled and the implementation of single stream systems leads to the the wrong materials ending up in the stream.
“It’s really more important for the individual customer to keep out contaminants,” Biderman says. “The processing facilities are seeing a substantial amount of non-recycling waste thrown in, or with waste resident, and it costs time to remove that material—thus causing facilities to charge the haulers more. Those rates get passed on to the cities.”