- Southern Recycling is ending curbside recycling service in Warren County, Kentucky effective April 1. The county approved a request for the company to end its contract four months early in late December. Southern is reportedly losing at least $28,000 per month on the deal, with the company's president arguing in the Bowling Green Daily News that number may be closer to $50,000.
- Other neighboring counties are also experiencing hurdles, but Warren officials are trying to remedy the situation. After March 31, residents may keep their bins and continue bringing recyclables to a scrap yard if they choose. Stanley Regan, a public information officer with the county, told Waste Dive that option will last until July 31 at the latest.
- That interim period will mark a suspension, but Regan said RFPs are in the works for "solid waste franchises and will include recycling." Those agreements would take effect Aug. 1, if not earlier. Southern did not respond to a request for comment about its own future plans.
Curbside recycling programs across the country have been in flux for years as fallout from international policy decisions continues to depress market values for multiple commodities. A number of municipalities have opted to suspend or cancel their programs as prices have skyrocketed, furthering a narrative that the sector is in extreme trouble.
Tracking by Waste Dive indicates that more than 60 curbside recycling programs have been suspended or canceled, including the upcoming Warren County suspension. While less than some have claimed, the number is not insignificant and nods to the challenges facing recycling programs amid this prolonged downturn. Service limitations or changes, such as Lexington's surprise decision to stop recycling mixed paper last year, are even more widespread.
Warren County's decision has been driven by Southern's request to exit a franchise agreement early, following shaky markets and plummeting global scrap prices. Approximately 35% of households in Warren County currently recycle, and locals say the 25-years-running curbside program is largely popular.
"It is our hope to have a curbside replacement, but what commodities will be collected is to be determined," said Regan.
In nearby Barren County, the city of Glasgow is standing by its program, which officials say was never intended to be profitable. But other neighboring Kentucky counties are also struggling and facing difficulties in selling their recyclables. Edmonton, in Metcalfe County, is weighing the future of its recycling center after reporting a loss of more than $105,000 in 2019. Edmonton confirmed to Waste Dive that county officials are considering suspension, but have made no final decisions.
Clinton County Judge Ricky Craig said the area was "in talks to" cancel its program, but has not done so yet. He indicated to Waste Dive the county would likely outright cancel without looking to resume at a future point. In Monroe County, meanwhile, the city of Tompkinsville is suspending its service for six months and officials said they will decide next steps at that point.