Waste managers say recycling is less cost effective and consumer costs could rise

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) — Recycling is less cost effective and prices may soon increase across Salt Lake County unless more Utahns recycle properly.

Pam Roberts, the Executive Director at Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, says Utahns are putting too many items in their recycling bins that don’t belong, causing major economic and environmental problems.

“Right now we are paying more as a district to have recycling processed than we were to have it go to the landfill,” said Roberts.

Roberts says recycling could soon cost companies as much as $900,000 a year. Utahns won’t see a price hike this year, but soon could if recycling is not done right. She says sending all recycle collections to the landfill is not the answer.

“We service 83,000 homes in the district, so if we were to break that out by home, that’s 75 cents (per home),” said Roberts.

She says water and food sources are two major factors of contamination.

“You wouldn’t think that water would do so much damage, but imagine that sitting for an hour on this cardboard in a truck and you can start to see it’s seeping in,” said Roberts.

“Just take the extra time when you recycle,” said Saul Lopez, a Wasatch Front Recycling District Driver. “Try to recycle the best quality material that’s on the lid.”

China is also no longer accepting such sloppy waste. Roberts says this adds to the cost.

“China is basically saying ‘keep it clean. You’ve been sending over contaminated waste,'” said Roberts. “‘We can’t take that anymore. We’re not your landfill,’ basically.”

Roberts says when in doubt, throw it out, but she also stresses the importance of recycling right.

Recycle symbols at the bottom of each product may help Utahns decipher between what is recyclable and what is not. Items labeled 1-2 are highly valuable, and items labeled 3-7 are valuable; however, waste managers encourage people to focus on recycling four key items:

  • Empty plastic bottles & jugs
  • Empty steel and aluminum cans
  • Clean paper
  • Clean cardboard  

Styrofoam is not recyclable, even though some cups are labeled with a recycle symbol.

Roberts also encourages shoppers to carry nonperishable bags instead of single-use plastic bags, and refrain from using plastic straws if at all possible.

This is a major industry challenge and managers say we need everyone to work together to overcome it.

To view the recycling guide, click here.

To view the green waste guide, click here.

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