It costs some companies a half a million dollars more to get rid of recyclables than it did five years ago.
It now costs local refuse companies more to get rid of recyclables than garbage.
For Alex Sigismondi, it costs his company, ALS Maintenance, a half a million dollars more to get rid of recyclables than it did when he started collecting five years ago.
He was the first local company to offer larger sized bins with lids for recyclables, wanting to encourage people to recycle for the environmental benefits.
“We dump it at the transfer station and basically it's being stored all over the country. There are many places actually running out of room for this recycling,” expressed Sigismondi.
He said that’s because companies aren’t incentivized to use recycled goods for their manufacturing, saying it often costs manufacturers less to produce a new product than to incorporate recyclables.
“The government has to push business to use recycled materials, give them a tax break or something, but it has to change soon,” he said.
Part of the issue stems from foreign policy. Up until this year, most of our recyclable items in the U.S. were actually shipped to China for processing.
However, the country stopped accepting our items.
This is due mostly to what is called ‘contamination’ which refers to non-recyclable items mixed in with recyclables.
“They have to sort through all that material. Plastic bags, ropes and chains gunk up the machines and make it stop,” explained Luann Meyer, the Solid Waste Administrator for Monroe County.
She said the majority of items from our area go to processing centers in the United States. “All of our materials are sold off with the exception of glass. There is no market, there hasn’t been for five years. We’re a bottle bill state so a lot of the clean glass that’s marketable goes to a redemption facility and they can recycle it to make new bottles,” she said, explaining glass bottles often go back to the landfill and are used as alternative daily cover for the trash.
She also explained the reason it is starting to cost more to recycle is because of the current market. “People buy and sell [recyclables], they’re looking for good product. Those prices can go up and down for those materials.”
Right now, she added, those prices are on the downslide. This means it costs more for refuse companies to get rid of the items.
In addition, she pointed out people need to be more mindful of how to reduce their use, how to reuse items, and what items they are trying to recycle. For example, plastic bags should not be put in your blue bins.
The county uses a third-party operator, Waste Management. A company spokesperson explained to keep quality, costs need to increase.
“Waste Management has worked with our customers to improve recycling quality even prior to the new China policy, and we are continuing to focus on quality at the curb throughout 2018.
Five years ago, Waste Management initiated the 'Recycle Often. Recycle Right.' campaign to provide our customers with clear, easy to follow guidelines on how to get the most out of their recycling programs.
"To achieve the stringent quality levels for commodity markets, we are adding labor and slowing down processing lines at our recycling facilities. These measures do result in increased processing costs to recycle, at the same time commodity values are very low,” Lori Caso with Waste Management explained.
She went on to say, “contaminated recyclables and the recent downturn in the value of recyclable materials has significantly reduced revenues and put a strain on our ability to operate our facilities economically.
We are committed to maintaining the true impetus of recycling – the conservation of resources and the diversion of recyclable material from disposal. To achieve that, generators of recyclables need to share in the cost of processing and then share in the revenue generated from the sale of that material.
As commercial and municipal recycling efforts continue to adapt to various market factors, reducing contamination to improve the quality of these commodities will be a major emphasis for years to come.”