UPDATE: Sept. 12, 2018: Kirkwood will continue its curbside recycling program after all, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, following weeks of public complaints. The city plans to use reserve funds to cover rising costs for the next 6-12 months and re-evaluate its options after that. While conversations are ongoing with both local and out-of-state processors no new arrangements have been made to replace the current agreement with Resource Management that is set to end on Oct. 31.
- Officials in the St. Louis, Missouri suburb of Kirkwood have decided to suspend the city's curbside recycling collection program, starting on October 22.
- Leaders made the decision because they have been unable to find a company to process mixed recyclables after their current processor, Resource Management, notified the city that it would no longer accept single-stream materials.
- The situation is being blamed on unfavorable market conditions brought on by China's regulatory measures for tighter contamination standards, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Kirkwood leaders expect that other St. Louis-area municipalities will be forced to follow suit and suspend their curbside recycling programs because of unfavorable market conditions. In another suburb, Hazelwood, Republic Services operated one of its two major processing facilities for the region's recyclables. Paper makes up about one-third of the recycling stream at that facility, and Republic indicates the paper market has all but dried up since China enacted its stricter standards.
A statement on Kirkwood's website says employees are actively seeking alternatives that would allow the curbside program to continue, but so far none have materialized. "The City at this time has been unable to find another company in the region that can process our mixed recyclables," the statement says.
Prior to the China-induced market trouble Kirkwood was receiving $15 per ton from Resource Management for the single-stream materials, but the hauler recently began charging the city $35 per ton for material dropped off at its facility. That change is projected to cost the city an additional $13,000 per year, though leaders say the curbside program cancelation isn't simply a problem of finances.
“We have to have a place that will accept the collected mixed recyclables,” said Russ Hawes, Kirkwood’s chief administrative officer, in a statement. “This decision was not based on costs.”
If the city cannot find a processor, it will retrofit the depository where residents used to drop off separated recyclables prior to the curbside program launch in 2011. Residents will be able to bring source-separated paper, glass, aluminum, tin and some plastics.
The city will launch an educational campaign next month to inform residents about these changes and the importance of reducing contamination. The existing curbside recycling carts will be relabeled and used for traditional trash pick-up. Although the city says it is trying to salvage its curbside recycling program, the measures it's taking to move in another direction may signal a point of no return.
“We have to prepare a plan of action if we cannot find a facility to take our mixed recyclables," said Kirkwood Mayor Tim Griffin in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to save our curbside recycling program, in light of the sudden and drastic recycling market changes.”