For about 30 years, nearly 45 percent of the world’s recyclable paper, plastics and other goods were shipped to China for processing. In 2017, China announced new, stringent restrictions on what their country would accept. That left recycling programs in the United States scrambling to find replacement services.
As vox.com pointed out, “After years of hearing that we should recycle more, it’s pretty shocking to realize that we don’t have an infrastructure that can deal with all of it.”
In Casa Grande, recycling was encouraged as part of their municipal trash collection program. The City used to receive about $25,000 or $30,000 per year as payment for the recyclables.
The announcement on the Casa Grande City website reads, “Last year, the city was PAID $18 a ton for recycled materials. But after the collapse of the global market for recyclables, it would now COST the city $67 a ton to process recycled materials, plus the cost of transportation and stiff penalties if a load is contaminated with non-recyclables.”
“China’s decision to pull out of the global market has had a major impact on the cost of recycling nationwide,” said Casa Grande Public Works Director Kevin Louis. “Given the enormous price spike, it’s our staffs’ recommendation to suspend the program until we can find a more cost-effective solution.”
City Manager Larry Rains explained, “If the recycling program was continued, it was estimated there would have to be a $2-$3 increase in monthly city garbage collection fees.”
On the other hand, by suspending the program, residents can expect to see about a $2 per month decrease in their trash collection bill.
The cost difference between putting the trash into the landfill, versus recycling it? According to Rains, sending the trash to the landfill will cost about $38 per ton, as opposed to about $135 per ton to send it to Phoenix for processing.
One question that had to be answered was how this decision would affect the lifespan of the City’s landfill.
“We were surprised, quite frankly to find that we would extend the useful life [of the landfill] by only three to six months,” Rains said regarding the recycling program.
“If you’re looking at it purely from a financial perspective,” Rains said, “You could begin to make some sense as to why this (suspension) is actually being recommended to the mayor and council.”
The City’s press release offers details regarding the suspension:
“As part of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget approved by the City Council, curbside recycling will be suspended beginning July 1, 2019. The Public Works Department will be placing flyers in blue recycling bins notifying customers of their last recycling pickup date.
“City workers will not be collecting the blue bins after the last scheduled recycling pick up. Residential customers can either bring the bins to the Public Works North Operation Center at 3181 N. Lear Avenue, or they can keep them. If a customer keeps their blue bin, recycling materials will not be picked up after a customer’s last recycling pickup date.
“The Public Works Department will continue to evaluate the recycling program should the city consider reinstating curbside recycling in the future. In the meantime, a list of sites where residents can take recyclable materials can be found on the city’s website at www.casagrandeaz.gov/recycle.”
Although the change in service is being described as a “suspension,” the City is unlikely to resume the service in the foreseeable future. In the FAQ’s listed on the casagrandeaz.gov website, it is written, “The city is suspending the current recycling program until a more effective, efficient, and economically viable means of recycling is found to replace the current program.”