Recycling Programs Struggle In Harsh Marketplace

Delmarva Now article (2018-01-31) explored the challenges Delaware’s recycling program has been going through based on recent restrictions China has placed on imported recycled waste, a very weak United States recyclable commodities market, and low oil prices providing for cheap new plastic. These challenges are being felt by many local government recycling programs throughout the US and has forced some jurisdictions to cut back on recycling or send potentially recyclable waste to landfills. From the article:

California has, in the past two years, sent over two billion soda cans to landfills – after the state refunded a nickel per container deposit. The state generates about 8 billion cans annually. …

In Washington, D.C., for example, the city last year paid a waste firm nearly $1.4 million to accept recyclables collected at residential curbsides.

By contrast, in 2011, the city actually made $550,000 from its recycling program. …

The bottom line in 2018: Collecting and processing recyclable materials by local governments has gone from a revenue producer to a significant cost.

The article noted an analysis of Delaware’s waste stream found that aluminum is the most valuable commodity, followed by ferrous metals (iron and steel), plastic, cardboard and paper, and finally glass (which has almost no value). The article stated that Santa Fe, New Mexico, has joined with other cities in no longer recycling glass.

The article also discussed issues of material contamination, food waste recycling, and waste diversion.