St. Louis suburbs find recycling solutions after major MRF halts service
- Several St. Louis suburbs have found ways to keep their recycling programs running, reports KBIA, following Resource Management's August announcement that it would stop collecting single-stream recyclables at the end of October, due to unfavorable market conditions brought on by China's import restrictions.
- The cities of Brentwood and Kirkwood both reportedly have signed contracts — for three years and one year, respectively — with Republic Services, who handles recycling for a good portion of the St. Louis region. Brentwood also signed a contract with Waste Management, another company that serves a large portion of the region.
- The city of O'Fallon has entered into a contract with the city of St. Peters through the end of this year that will require a switch to dual-stream. St. Peters operates its own recyclables processing plant and its collectors will take O'Fallon residents' plastic, glass and cans to the plant. Residents will have to drop off paper and cardboard themselves.
St. Louis certainly isn't the only U.S. metropolitan area to be affected by China-prompted recycling industry changes, but it is one of the most notable because of the scope of the problem. While there are benefits to having one MRF serve a large number of residents in one county or metro area — such as recycling program consistency in neighboring municipalities — this example also illustrates one of the big downsides. Many municipalities can suffer consequences if that one company experiences difficulties.
Officials in Kirkwood had announced in August that curbside recycling would be suspended because they didn't feel like there were viable, affordable options for a processor who could take over after Resource Management halted service. Before the markets took a turn, Kirkwood received $15 per ton from Resource Management for recyclable materials, but this year the company began charging the city $35 per ton for recyclables dropped off at its facility.
Kirkwood revived its recycling program after weeks of resident complaints, stating the city would use reserve funds for 6-12 months and then figure out a new plan. The new one-year contract with Republic Services gives leaders some wiggle room for designing a new long-term solution. However, the interim program won't come cheaply — Republic Services is now reportedly charging Kirkwood $115 per ton and the city doesn't want to raise residents' collection fees. Brentwood also doesn't want to raise its residents' rates.
A number of other St. Louis County municipalities have been affected by Resource Management ending service besides the three that announced short-term solutions. For example, Lake St. Louis is eliminating items from its curbside collection, including glass, cardboard and paper, reports KMOV. Recyclables from Wentzville now will make a nearly four-hour trek across the state to Kansas City, although the city might make more recycling program changes in December.
Although St. Louis County municipalities are doing their best to preserve recycling programs and keep residents happy, all of the rapid changes and temporary solutions could end up causing a lot of consumer confusion. When confusion spreads, the rate of recyclables being thrown out tends to increase and may undermine their overarching goals.
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