The Cost to Recycle

December 1, 2016

December 2016

Dear Recycler:

Kent County operates the Recycling & Education Center where curbside recycling collected from home is delivered by your waste hauler to be processed.  Bottles, cans, paper and other accepted materials are sorted, baled and sold to companies that make new products. Placing your bottles, cans, jars, cardboard and paper into a recycling cart instead of the trash gives these items, originally made from natural resources like oil, timber, and iron ore new life as clothing, park benches, packing materials and cars.

In 2016, for the first time in our 25 years of operation, the Department of Public Works applied a $10 per ton service fee for recyclables delivered to our facility to help reduce the operational loss we experienced in 2015 of over $1 million. There were several reasons for the shortage:

Lower commodity values. The average price per ton of processed recyclables dropped from $152 to just $77 per ton.  We continue to process recyclables but are paid a lot less.

Changing materials. Most recyclables are consumer packaging: bottles, cans, boxes. As the packaging industry changes their products to respond to consumer needs, the type of materials we process changes, too. Water bottles, for example, are much thinner, so much so that they easily crumple when grasped. While less plastic is needed to transport bottled water to the consumer, recycling facilities must handle many more bottles to capture the same amount of material.

Increasing contamination. Recycling is important.  Recycling “right” is critical. Last year 15 percent of what Kent County received as “recyclables” was landfilled at a cost of $150,000 because it was too dirty or wasn’t material that is able to be processed at our facility. Please refer to the guidelines that we have included to check what is acceptable. The phrase “when in doubt, throw it out” still applies.

To help move us closer to a break-even operation in 2017, service fees will be $35 per ton for recyclables coming from Kent County and $40 per ton for material from surrounding communities. The typical household recycles around 500-750 pounds per year, about 1/4 ton or so.

What we’re doing on our end:

  1. Working at the neighborhood level to spread the word about ‘Right Recycling’
  1. Improving recycling availability away from home: at schools, events and public spaces
  1. Setting goals to reduce discarded materials going to landfill and engaging community partners

Thank you for your commitment to recycling. The increase in cost will sustain operations. We encourage your participation in “right recycling” and supporting the network of local businesses that buy the processed material from Kent County’s Recycling & Education Center for use.

Darwin J. Baas

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