China’s decision in January 2018 to stop importing many types of plastic, paper and metal waste from the United States, and from many other countries around the world, might eventually cause recycling bills to climb for Bellevue residents.
Bellevue City Councilman Don Preister said Bellevue residents will likely see modest increases in their recycling bills until the spring of 2022 when Papillion Sanitation’s cost of collecting recyclables will be reviewed and prices adjusted to reflect rising costs.
Until then, Preister said, Bellevue residents will be sheltered from extreme price hikes by the terms of the city’s contract with Papillion Sanitation, although the private sector, which is not covered by the contract, is already seeing rising prices.
According to Ross Pomeroy, a zoologist and conservation biologist in an article published at realclearscience.com, the world is flooded with used plastic now that China has reduced its import of recyclables. Given that China for decades has disposed of more than 40 percent of the world’s plastic waste, transforming it into new uses ranging from polyester clothing to cell phones, its absence from the market is having a profound effect.
Brent Crampton, director of partnerships for Gretna-based Hillside Solutions, said the flood of plastic waste, and the consequent fall in prices that recycling centers can ask after materials are separated and prepared, has made it difficult for them to remain profitable. Unable to make money on the back end of the process — the sale of sorted recyclables — recycling centers are charging more to the companies that manage municipal recycling programs.
That is reflected in the prices residents pay for recycling services.
Dale Gubbels, president and chief executive officer of FirstStar Recycling of Omaha, which focuses on recycling paper and cardboard, said his company is feeling the crunch. The newly abundant supply of used paper is causing prices to tumble, he said.
“Prices have been falling steadily for quite some time,” he said. “From where we sit, the paper market is where things have really clamped down.”
Domestic paper mills, Gubbels said, are paying much less because of oversupply.
Pomeroy cites several cities across the country that have abandoned their recycling programs in light of rising costs and reverted to dumping recyclables into landfills.
That, Crampton said, is the wrong approach.
In a video available on Hillside Solutions’ Facebook page, Crampton said “American ingenuity” will eventually resolve the problem. In the meantime, he said, there are things consumers can do to recycle more intelligently, thereby reducing costs for recycling centers.
First, he said, consumers should separate their recyclables as directed. Mixing recyclables causes cross-contamination and adds to processing time at recycling centers as items are separated.
Second, buy products made from recycled materials.
Third, don’t stop recycling. Crampton said the average American produces 4.3 pounds of trash every day and that figure can be reduced by using refillable bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, shopping with reusable bags instead of using new plastic bags and purchasing loose produce instead of bagged.