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Major changes could be coming to how you recycle

Posted: 7:12 AM, Apr 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-12 10:38:46Z

LEWISTON, N.Y. — The way you recycle could be changing drastically.

"This is truly a paradigm shift in recycling as we know it," Dawn Timm, Niagara County's Environmental Coordinator, said.

Simply put - it's getting more expensive to recycle.

"We paid 650,000 for weekly recycling up until last year and now if we want weekly recycling the cost would be 1.1 million dollars," Gene Hart, a West Seneca Councilman, said.

Both, West Seneca and Niagara County, have discontinued weekly recycle pick-ups. This saves West Seneca around $350,000. For Niagara County, what use to be a profitable business has turned into a major expense. Timm said the county was making around $400,000 a year on recycling just three years ago. However, all that's changed now.

"Now we’ve seen commodity values have significantly declined. Processing costs have gone up. Were seeing that you’re looking at minus 300,000 dollars so that's a 700,000 dollar swing in 3 years," Timm said.

This all started when China said it would no longer accept dirty recyclables.

"We were use to giving them 16-18 percent contamination now they only want a half percent contamination," Timm said.

Basically, that means China wants recycled goods to be a lot cleaner before sending it over. One of the main ways to do that according to Timm and Hart is more conscientiousness recycling.

"Don't know throw things and hope they are recycled know they can be recycled," Timm said.

That serves a two-fold process. Another reason municipalities are concerned with the price of recycling is because the cost of transferring waste that ends up in recycling centers into landfills is expensive.

"The homeowner and the tax payer are going to have to be more aware of what they put in that recycle bin," Hart said.

According to Hart and Timm, many people mistakenly put trash in the recycling bin.

"Basically you're going to have newspaper and paper and some other items magazines and clear glass. That’s just about all there is left that's actually recyclable, everything else takes an expensive trip to the landfill that goes through the recycling system."

It is about $4 more per ton to transport garbage from the recycling center to landfill than directly to a landfill.

This doesn't just hurt local municipalities. This hits the wallets of waste management companies too.

"Absolutely its forced us to consent to changes and adjustments," Alan Davis, the Vice President of Post Collection Operations and Sales at the Modern Corporation.

There is no simple solution. As more and more people order off Amazon, more cardboard and packing is generated. However, Amazon does recognize the role it plays in this and has made steps to fix it.