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UPDATED: November 15, 2019

How recycling has changed in all 50 states

Research and reporting by Cole Rosengren, Max Witynski, Rina Li, E.A. Crunden, Cody Boteler and Katie Pyzyk.

Brian Tucker/Waste Dive

Waste Dive began tracking the effects of China's scrap import policies across all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) during fall 2017 for America Recycles Day. We contacted each state environmental agency and found the problems were only just beginning.

Since then, a host of other market changes have spurred service providers to reset pricing and quality expectations – sometimes drastically. While local governments are struggling to adapt to this new reality, and portrayals of national chaos are an exaggeration, the effects have been noticeable. Waste Dive’s analysis indicates approximately 60 curbside programs have been cancelled, with even more drop-off site closures and material limitations.

At the same time, solutions are coming. About a dozen curbside programs have been revived in various forms. As of summer 2019, when Waste Dive contacted each state environmental agency once again, many efforts to improve education and infrastructure were underway. Still, the U.S. recycling infrastructure is far from done evolving and further changes should be expected for possibly years to come.

We’ve been scanning the news regularly to produce this two-year chronology, but we can't spot it all. See information that doesn’t reflect your knowledge or would help expand ours? Send an email to [email protected].

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Alabama

Alabama escaped the early effects of national market pressures in 2017, according to correspondence with the Department of Environmental Management and the Southeast Recycling Development Council. More recent news shows it hasn't been totally immune.

Effects

  • The Enterprise City Council votes to end its curbside recycling program, which costs about $400,000 per year, effective Oct. 1. A drop-off site could be built in the future. (August 2018)
  • The Alabama Environmental Council closes a decades-old recycling drop-off center in Avondale, one of the few options for Birmingham area residents to recycle material not accepted in curbside programs. (November 2018)
  • Phenix City is no longer accepting plastic at either of its two drop-off centers after contractor All American Recycling reports issues selling material. (January 2019)
  • Opelika reduces hours and cuts some drop-off locations due to ongoing contamination issues. (March 2019)
  • The Alabama Department of Corrections ends a sorting operation run by inmates, meaning local governments that sent material there must find other options. Elmore County closes multiple drop-off sites as a result. (NEW - October 2019)
  • Birmingham Recycling and Recovery, a MRF operator, sends a letter informing all 30-plus municipalities it serves that their processing fees will more than double from $30 to $65 per ton. An additional $50 per ton will be charged for contamination. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • After considering canceling its curbside program in the fall of 2018, and temporarily closing some drop-off sites, the city of Dothan signs a new short-term contract with RePower South's mixed waste processing facility in Montgomery. City officials previously estimated the deal could potentially save as much as $100,000 per year. (March 2019)
  • Residents of Huntsville and Madison County will see their collection frequency change from weekly to monthly, but the new Recycling Alliance of North Alabama program will now cover 25,000 new homes that had no service. (June 2019)
  • The Mobile City Council tables a vote to renew its current processing contract with the Emerald Coast Utility Authority (ECUA), following a large price increase and uncertain financial terms, and will explore other options. Foley decides to renew its own contract with ECUA despite price increases. (June-July 2019)
  • Prattville signs a new contract with RePower South, following the closure of an inmate-run recycling operation in the area. (August 2019)

Alaska

Scrap policy changes have had "little effect" in Alaska as of summer 2019, according to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. This is likely because recycling programs already accepted a more limited range of materials (e.g. no #3-7 plastics).

Effects

  • Communities are informed by Republic Services and others that existing markets for mixed paper, and in some cases mixed plastics, are no longer viable. (October 2017)
  • Juneau has difficulty moving material ahead of China’s January 2018 implementation date. Sitka, Petersburg and Ketchikan announce plans to drop mixed paper and plastics from recycling programs. (November 2017)
  • Republic continues accepting and stockpiling mixed paper, but eventually informs Ketchikan shipments could no longer go out as of March 2018. The city has since announced it will officially stop taking mixed paper. (May-June 2018)
  • Petersburg considers halting its recycling program, estimating it could save $3,300 per year. (August 2018)
  • Anchorage residents can no longer recycle #1 plastic clamshell containers, either through municipal or private service, due to a lack of market options. The city anticipates overall recycling costs will be at least $40,000 higher for the year. (June 2019)

Solutions

  • Republic begins charging Sitka up to $150 per ton for loads that have 10% or more contamination, based on a visual inspection. Factoring in transportation costs to Washington state, the city might end up paying as much as $239 per ton. Renewed education efforts are expected. (September 2018)
  • After experiencing the usual financial challenges, Valley Community for Recycling Solutions is doubling down on education. This "sustain campaign" is aiming to raise $1 million, including grants. (March 2019)

Arizona

The state Department of Environmental Quality’s recycling coordinator reported businesses were “struggling some” in the fall of 2017. Those struggles have intensified since then. Since then, the effects have hit harder.

As of summer 2019, the agency said commodity market changes have "made it challenging" for communities to continue recycling. Increased collection and processing costs have forced municipalities to end programs, while others have restricted materials or switched to biweekly pickups.

Effects

  • Municipalities in the Phoenix East Valley metro area report major hits to their budgets as commodity revenues plummet. (May 2018)
  • Flagstaff only accepts plastics #1-2 in curbside collection per the request of MRF operator Norton Environmental. (June 2018)
  • Municipalities and MRF operators throughout the state begin reporting more issues, with hints that some material is being disposed. Sierra Vista cuts back its list of accepted materials, dropping mixed paper. The town of Bisbee considers cuts to its drop-off program and is landfilling low-value materials. Tucson officials announce a host of potential changes, such as reduced collection or higher fees. (July 2018)
  • Net revenue from Phoenix's recycling program has decreased from $350,000 per month to $50,000, while Tucson's recycling program is projected to lose $900,000 in FY19. Sedona Recycles has stopped servicing drop-off locations in Beaver Creek and Camp Verde. (October 2018)
  • Scottsdale reports pending budget issues due to declining revenue from recyclables, which could lead to price increases or program cuts. (November 2018)
  • The majority of Nogales' residential recyclables (aside from metals) are being landfilled due to high processing costs. According to Service provider Tucson Waste & Recycling, Republic is charging upward of $190 per ton. (February 2019)
  • The town of Safford suspends its curbside recycling program and cancels a contract with Friedman Recycling. Residents can resume service for a fee. (April 2019)
  • The town of Thatcher, which sent material to Safford, subsequently suspends its curbside program. After already cutting back in 2018, Sierra Vista will end its curbside recycling program effective July 1 due to rising costs. (May 2019)
  • The city of Globe suspends its curbside recycling program, following a request by service provider Right Away Disposal. The city of Casa Grande follows suit shortly after, citing significant cost increases. Payson also ends its drop-off program. (June-July 2019)
  • The city of Surprise suspends its curbside recycling program, in the face of a large processing cost increase with Waste Management. The smaller city of Page also ends its curbside recycling program after Utah processor Rocky Mountain Recycling stops taking residential material. Santa Cruz County reports it’s been landfilling paper and plastics for months. (August 2019)
  • Phoenix decides it will need to make service changes without a rate increase. The city's recycling revenue has declined by $5.6 million in the last fiscal year. Options range from cutting services and closing facilities to raising rates enough to maintain current systems. (NEW - November 2019)

Solutions

  • Phoenix has found a way around the mixed paper ban by producing a "special news mix" sold to a private recycler in China. The local climate makes for dry bales that travel well. (March 2018)
  • Phoenix receives multiple bids for potential facilities that could process mixed plastics (most of which is currently being landfilled) at the city's resource innovation campus. (July 2018)
  • Following a successful pilot earlier this year (an initial 70% rejection rate dropped to 30% over five weeks), Phoenix Public Works is implementing The Recycling Partnership's cart-tagging model across the city. (October 2018)
  • The Phoenix City Council approves a $3 million no-interest loan from the Closed Loop Fund to help with $4.5 million worth of upgrades at one of two city-owned MRFs. Phoenix's Public Works Department later tells Waste Dive this is expected to halve residual rates and eventually increase monthly revenues by more than $200,000. (December 2018)
  • Phoenix awards a contract to Renew Phoenix (a partnership that includes Renewlogy) to process mixed plastics into fuel. The initial phase will process 10 tons per day and eventually scale up to accept more material from the region. (April 2019)
  • Tucson will reduce its recycling collection frequency to biweekly, with expected savings of $1.4 million per year. The city is also planning to pull $2 million from a hotel tax fund to cover costs and is debating whether to keep glass. (April 2019)
  • Cochise County begins charging for drop-off service. Mesa moves to reduce its list of accepted curbside materials, and close drop-off centers, in an effort to preserve recycling options rather than eliminate them. (NEW - September-October 2019)

Arkansas

Like other Southeast states, Arkansas was initially seen as less affected by recent market shifts, but that’s changing as contracts come up for renewal and other factors arise locally.

Effects

  • Texarkana stops accepting all plastics at its drop-off center. Residents can still recycle plastics at a monthly "Green Texarkana" event or via curbside subscription service from Waste Management. (March 2018)
  • Multiple MRFs are stockpiling OCC and paying paper mills to take other fiber grades. (June 2018)
  • Little Rock, North Little Rock and Sherwood – working together through the Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District – sign a new contract with Waste Management that raises rates and eliminates glass starting in April 2019. (October-December 2018)
  • Texarkana ends its monthly "Green Texarkana" recycling drop-off event due to market conditions. (May 2019)
  • The Baxter Recycling Center will no longer accept plastics #3-7 or various types of mixed paper, citing market conditions. (June 2019) The University of Arkansas’ Fayetteville campus learns broker Smurfit Kappa disposed at least four tons of recyclables (mixed plastics and mixed paper) over multiple months. (June 2019)

Solutions

  • Pulaski County plans to offer five regional drop-off options for glass recycling to offset changes in local curbside programs serviced by Waste Management. (January 2019)
  • After weighing various options for more than a year, ahead of an upcoming contract expiration, Fort Smith appears likely to stay the course on its recycling program. (July 2019)
  • Recycling returns to Columbia County residents for the first time in more than a year, following an equipment upgrade at Abilities Unlimited. The nonprofit’s workers, who previously sorted manually, were overwhelmed by high contamination rates. (August 2019)
  • Little Rock officials pass an ordinance allowing the city to charge residents $50 for the return of any recycling cart removed due to habitual contamination. Little Rock and North Little Rock have pulled hundreds of carts throughout the year. (September 2019)

California

Recycling challenges have sparked different responses from communities across the state: haulers have conducted pilot programs for dual-stream recycling and contamination monitoring, many municipalities have implemented educational campaigns, and some have pursued product or material restrictions. CalRecycle has also observed interest in secondary material processing.

CalRecycle’s efforts include communicating updates on market challenges, convening recycling workshops and roundtables and continuing to disburse funding for local infrastructure. The agency is also planning a three-year, $16 million statewide education campaign to update residents on current recycling best practices.

In June 2019, the agency said that California "can no longer rely on exports as a sustainable component of the state’s recycling infrastructure" going forward. "Ultimately, California’s long-term sustainability depends upon our ability to close the loop in our own state and turn our waste stream into a supply stream for local business," said spokesperson Lance Klug.

Effects

  • San Diego reports a potential $5.1 million swing in costs to work with IMS Recycling Services and Allan Company, according to a council memo. (May 2018)
  • Ongoing issues with markets pricing, stockpiling or contamination rates have been reported in areas such as Los Altos, Mountain View, Gonzales, Bakersfield, Chico, Manteca and Grass Valley. Recology is staging more plastic bales than usual at its San Francisco MRF. Some material is being disposed in July. Sacramento drops plastics #4-7. (Spring/Summer 2018)
  • According to a LA County Sanitation Districts official, 15-20% more material is ending up as residual contamination now at the Puente Hills MRF. Multiple other reports indicate tighter operating conditions or stockpiling in Santa Cruz Laguna Beach, Vallejo, Napa Valley and Marin. New reports have also come about ongoing cost challenges in Santa Barbara County, Martinez and San Jose. The latter city says it may waive financial penalties if contractors California Waste Solutions and GreenWaste can't divert the state-mandated minimum tonnage. (August 2018)
  • Bakersfield has gone from earning an average of $25 per ton to now paying $70 or more. This is expected to cost $750,000 per year. The city considers cutting some materials but nothing conclusive is decided. (Summer-September 2018)
  • The San Mateo MRF operated by ReThink Waste (officially known as the South Bayside Waste Management Authority) is anticipating upward of $4 million in operational losses in 2018 due to market conditions. (September 2018)
  • Service providers in the RecycLA franchise system tell Waste Dive they are experiencing notable challenges with marketability and contamination, but are still contractually obligated to accept all blue bin material for free. (November 2018)
  • Manteca residents can no longer recycle anything besides clean OCC, plastics #1-2 and containers accepted in the state redemption program. (November 2018)
  • South California municipalities prepare for widespread cost pressures, limited end markets and tough choices. San Diego's own recycling revenue is expected to drop to $600,000 in the current fiscal year, as compared to $3 million the year before. Pasadena starts paying for service due to a contract change. The Hayward City Council approves a rate increase, as well as the option for Tri-CED Community Recycling to dispose of up to 200 tons of recyclables if market conditions declined. Monterey is anticipating its own rate increase. Santa Cruz County announces it will no longer contract with area nonprofits to run three drop-off sites that were costing $250,000 per year. State Treasurer Fiona Ma describes the current situation as a "crisis moment." (March 2019)
  • Monterey City Disposal Service is proposing a rate increase for the city. Cal-Waste Recovery Systems is currently sitting on – and considering disposal of – at least five truckloads worth of #3-7 plastic bales with no viable end market. Plastics #3-7 are widely being disposed by recyclers in Southern California due to a lack of markets. (April-May 2019)
  • The Santa Monica City Council votes to reject a new seven-year processing contract with Allan Company that could have increased costs by $1 million per year. This leads to the closure of a container redemption center handled under the prior contract. Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and other mid-sized cities report recycling challenges, as do various Bay Area cities. (June 2019)
  • rePlanet, California's largest operator of beverage container redemption centers, closes all 284 of its recycling locations. Union City residents, who were already paying the highest combined garbage and recycling rates in Alameda County, will be forced to pay increased rates for one year. Bakersfield’s recycling costs have reportedly increased by $720,000 in the past year. (August 2019)
  • The Ukiah City Council temporarily closes a recycling buyback center, following a large increase in traffic after the closure of rePlanet and others. ReThink Waste reports that while it’s still accepting all plastics, mixed plastics #3-7 are being landfilled. Grass Valley Recycle closes its buyback center, citing market conditions. (NEW - Fall 2019)

Solutions

  • Sacramento County rolls out a pilot education program to test new carts and contamination messaging after a drastic swing in the recycling budget. (March 2018)
  • CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline releases a letter clarifying bale storage standards and noting market conditions are factored into considerations of compliance with state recycling requirements. (May 2018)
  • San Luis Obispo County is planning a new summer education campaign to deal with contamination. Recology launches a "Better at the Bin" campaign in San Francisco. (June 2018)
  • Mill Valley Refuse pilots dual-stream collection in select neighborhoods for four months to improve quality. Bakersfield begins composting some mixed paper. (July 2018)
  • San Diego approves a contract amendment with two MRF operators, IMS Recycling Services and Allan Company, that suspended a previous floor price and ended guaranteed revenue sharing. The amendment, retroactive to May 2018, is expected to result in at least $1.5 million less revenue for the city. (October 2018)
  • Sacramento's Recycling and Solid Waste Division announces residents can once again recycle all plastics after the program was limited earlier in the year. Manteca considers a mixed waste processing option that could turn some fiber products into fertilizer. Corte Madera experiments with dual-stream, while Milpitas and Windsor have already made the switch. (November-December 2018)
  • Recology announces the completion of a $14 million MRF upgrade – including seven new optical sorters – as well as successful results from new cart labeling strategies. (January 2019)
  • LA Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar tells Waste Dive the city is working to develop new market relationships for fiber with the Mexican state of Baja California. (April 2019)
  • Atascadero will begin charging residents a $50 contamination fee. Mill Valley Refuse attempts to convince multiple local governments in Marin County to switch to dual-stream collection. (March 2019)
  • Long Beach and Palo Alto both set "zero waste" goals – in part to account for recycling changes. (April-May 2019)
  • Santa Barbara raises trash and recycling fees to help fund a new MRF and other improvements. (July 2019)
  • The Ripon City Council votes to subsidize a recycling program benefiting local elementary school students. Fresno and Culver City emphasize efforts to hold off raising rates as long as possible. GreenWaste Recovery in San Jose reports spending $10 million on MRF upgrades in the past two years. (August 2019)
  • California’s state legislature passes multiple laws related to recycling issues, and gets close on a broader extended producer responsibility bill. The California Recycling Market Development Act establishes a statewide market commission and extends infrastructure funding through multiple programs. (September 2019)

Colorado

Recycling has become more expensive for residential and commercial users as of summer 2019, with MRF tip fees equal or greater than disposal fees in some cases, according to Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment. The agency reports drop-off programs are struggling (some have closed) and some MRFs are having trouble getting fiber or mixed plastics to market. In response, CDPHE has revised grants programs, conducted MRF outreach and worked to remind facilities of material turnover requirements.

The agency also conducted a survey, designed by The Recycling Partnership, of all state MRFs to identify top contaminants. Based on results, it has shared educational material focused on bags and food contamination.

Effects

  • The Larimer County Recycling Center, which serves cities such as Fort Collins and Loveland, has essentially stopped recycling plastics #3, 6, 7 due to a lack of markets. (May 2018)
  • Alpine Recycling Vice President Brent Hildebrand says China's import shutdown has temporarily forced material into new markets, such as South Korea and Mexico. Mixed paper has piled up as efforts continue to cultivate new long-term markets. (June-July 2018)
  • The city of Cortez and the Four Corners Recycling Initiative have stopped accepting newspaper for recycling. Regional drop-off options are available. (November 2018)
  • Waste Management acquires Northern Colorado Disposal but declines to purchase its recycling drop-off site — meaning it will remain closed unless the municipality of Greeley can pull together funding to run it themselves. (March 2019)
  • Summit County's recycling program has gone from bringing in $29 per ton to costing $38 per ton, increasing expected annual program costs by around $250,000. (April 2019)
  • Fort Collins stops accepting mixed plastics from area residents, citing low market value. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • To help with quality control, Waste Management (Denver's local MRF operator) slowed processing speeds to the point where it was operating at 60% capacity. (March 2018)
  • Durango city officials vote to approve a $2.69 monthly surcharge for residential recycling, effective in July 2018. The city would have otherwise faced a $180,000 budget shortfall after Friedman Recycling raised prices by $25 per ton. (May 2018)
  • Boulder County's MRF, operated by Eco-Cycle, has become a popular destination for outside material — an additional 2,500 tons have come through in recent months). The facility's newer plastic sorting equipment and longstanding relationships with domestic buyers have allowed it to receive relatively more value for its bales. (July 2018)
  • Friedman Recycling says it is now using alternate markets in countries such as Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea, Mexico and Brazil. (July 2018)
  • CDPHE announces the first nine teams in its new NextCycle market development program, each of which will receive a $5,000 business development grant. The incubator program is part of a revamp to direct funding toward improving quality and expanding markets. (February 2019)
  • Boulder County's latest round of upgrades to its MRF — including a plastic bag vacuum and new OCC screen — are reportedly paying off. (February 2019)
  • Alpine Waste & Recycling, now owned by GFL Environmental, completes a $2.5 million MRF upgrade that has increased processing speeds by 33%. Colorado is also embarking on statewide market development efforts, including a recently passed bill that would raise landfill tip fees to help expand recycling grants. (May 2019)
  • The Aspen City Council agrees to fund one year of service at a local drop-off center, following Pitkin County’s decision to cease funding. When proposals come in for more than double what the city anticipated, it opts for a “targeted” list of separated materials versus single-stream. (Summer 2019)

Connecticut

Connecticut has the usual cost pressures for New England states. As of summer 2019, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reports the primary side effect is the cost of tipping fees at single-stream MRFs “continues to climb.” Still, the state hasn’t made any changes to its legislatively-defined list of mandatory recyclables, or its universal "What’s In, What’s Out" guidelines. DEEP also hasn’t received any requests for disposal waivers, but did acknowledge some communities are sending glass for use as alternative daily cover at landfills.

Effects

  • The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, which owns a MRF operated by Republic Services, reports sitting on hundreds of fiber bales and sending low-grade plastics (not #5) to the incinerator it manages. (April 2018)
  • Annual costs rise in municipalities. Stamford went from earning $95,000 to paying $700,000. New Canaan is paying $100,000 more per a new contract. Wilton, currently losing $300,000 at its transfer station, could end up paying $100,000 more. (July 2018)
  • The town of Fairfield goes from earning nearly $64,000 on recycling in 2017 to potentially paying upward of $250,000 in 2018. New Canaan's cost have also increased to $197,000 for the year. (December 2018)
  • More municipalities see cost shifts for their recycling programs. Naugatuck, now working with MIRA, won't have to pay to tip recycling but will pay more for trash. Beacon Falls will go from receiving a rebate to paying Oak Ridge Waste and Recycling $65 per ton. (April 2019)
  • Republic Services sues MIRA in an effort to exit its MRF operating contract early, citing various issues with contamination rates. MIRA has refused to renegotiate any contract terms ahead of expiration. (June 2019)

Solutions

  • DEEP launches a universal recycling campaign, called "What's In, What's Out," to standardize sorting guidelines. This was in the works prior to China's import moves, but was touted as a way to help reduce contamination. (November 2017)
  • The Closed Loop Fund announces a partnership with DEEP to distribute at least $5 million in recycling infrastructure investment during 2018. (March 2018)
  • Norwalk's Department of Public Works and City Carting announces a single-stream recycling deal that explicitly excludes plastic bags, plastic film, expanded polystyrene foam and straws. This follows a similar announcement by Stamford, which also sends material to City Carting. (September 2018)
  • A report from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities outlining severe cost swings for many local governments sparks concern among officials. Legislative proposals, such as expanding the state’s bottle bill, get renewed attention though ultimately don’t pass. (March 2019)

Delaware

While Delaware has been impacted by higher prices, the Delaware Solid Waste Authority reports it has been able to move all materials – though sometimes at a cost. Funding has been covered in part by using a portion of solid waste tip fees for recycling.

Effects and Solutions

  • The DSWA reports mixed plastics markets have evaporated in recent months, due in large part to the idling of QRS Recycling in Maryland. (November 2017)
  • The cost of recycling now exceeds its value in terms of commodity prices for DSWA. DSWA's MRF slows its processing speeds, but no other changes are reported. (February 2018)
  • The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) asserts recycling programs are "alive and well" in the state due to Delaware's limited reliance on international export markets. (April 2019)
  • DSWA and DNREC launch the Recycle Right educational campaign. Contamination rates at DSWA’s MRF, operated under contract by Republic Services, have reportedly declined from 18% to 14%. (Spring 2019)

District of Columbia

D.C.’s Department of Public Works has experienced lower rebates, and increased contamination costs, from the MRFs it contracts with. In response, the agency has begun treating highly-contaminated commercial loads at its transfer stations as refuse and working on residential education throughout the city.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Recycling, of which the district is a member, has also established a recycling markets subcommittee to monitor and discuss solutions.

Effects and Solutions

  • D.C. reportedly paid nearly $1.4 million to process its recyclables in 2017, as compared to earning $550,000 in 2011. (February 2018)
  • The district's recycling now costs nearly $30 more per ton than disposal. (July 2018)
  • DPW reports that educational efforts have increased recycling tonnage by 9.5% while decreasing contamination by 8% over the past year. (November 2018)
  • DPW launches a “Feet on the Street” cart-tagging campaign, working with The Recycling Partnership, to reduce contamination in residential carts on select routes. This campaign builds on the successful pilot from 2018. (September 2019)

Florida

Florida's Department of Environmental Protection reports, as of summer 2019, that the state "is not experiencing the same negative effects" as the West Coast due to greater regional access to domestic markets. However, many waste haulers and MRF operators have had to reduce contamination levels, leading municipalities to renegotiate recycling contracts – typically at higher rates and with fewer recyclables accepted.

Effects

  • Tarpon Paper in Loxley stops accepting material from Pensacola, although residents aren't informed for seven months. (September 2017)
  • Polk County officials cite China as a reason for eliminating glass, magazines and certain plastics from their local recycling program. (November 2017)
  • 30A Recycle suspends curbside collection in Walton and Bay counties because a local recycling center can no longer sell its plastic to Waste Management's Dothan, Ala. facility. (April 2018)
  • Seventeen cities in Broward County are evaluating limited options following news that contracts with Sun Bergeron will not be renewed. Waste Management is the only option (aside from not recycling at all), but processing costs will nearly double. (June 2018)
  • The cities of Deerfield Beach and Sunrise officially suspend all curbside recycling after refusing more expensive contract terms from Waste Management. Deerfield Beach later reaches an agreement to resume service with a new processing fee, with a six-month grace period to analyze the source of its high contamination rates. (July-August 2018)
  • The DeBary City Council votes to suspend its curbside recycling program immediately, due to rising costs, but later reaches a deal with Waste Pro. (August 2018)
  • Clearwater reportedly sent nearly one-third of its recyclables to the Pinellas County incinerator in August due to contamination. Some loads from Tampa have also been highly contaminated. (October 2018)
  • Deltona decides to suspend its entire curbside recycling program with Waste Pro, citing processing costs more than double that of disposal and estimated annual savings of $715,000. No other local jurisdictions are planning to follow suit. (January 2019)
  • After considering options ahead of a potential contract renewal with Waste Pro, Ormond Beach renegotiates for higher rates while also cutting glass and "non-marketable plastic containers." This is part of a broader rate increase trend in Volusia County. (February 2019)
  • Santa Rosa County temporarily sends recyclables to a landfill for disposal as it works out new logistics and pricing with the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) MRF. A deal is eventually reached to resume recycling by October. (April-July 2019)
  • Port Orange cuts glass from its curbside program, following a cost increase with GEL Recycling. Area Disposal approaches Jacksonville about a mid-term contract renegotiation, which would involve dropping glass and mixed plastics. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • The DEP launches a "Rethink. Reset. Recycle" campaign to raise awareness about the state's average 30% contamination rate. (November 2017)
  • Orange County Utilities launches a cart tagging pilot for more than 600 households, following a sharp increase in contamination since switching to single-stream. Of a $10 annual fee increase for households, $6 will go toward education. (June 2018)
  • Lake Worth prepares to switch back to dual-stream collection after nearly 10 years of single-stream processing with Waste Management. The move will bring the city back into the Palm Beach County's Solid Waste Authority's system and cost an expected $220,000. Lakeland approves a $55,000 education campaign with Resource Recycling Systems to help reduce its contamination rate. (September 2018)
  • Orange County's summer cart inspection campaign yields promising enough results that the pilot will be replicated in early 2019. It later receives a grant from The Recycling Partnership to expand the work. (October 2018)
  • Indian River County launches a drop-off education campaign, backed by the American Chemistry Council, asking residents to keep plastic bags and film out of curbside carts. Ocala successfully reduces its contamination rate by pulling carts from repeat offenders. (March 2019)
  • Okaloosa County decides to start diverting all recyclables to a Waste Management landfill, following a proposed price increase in a new ECUA contract. Following public outcry, the county negotiates a new contract with ECUA paid for by reserve funds. This also includes material from areas municipalities such as Destin. (NEW - September-November 2019)
  • Nearly 30 local governments in Broward County have their first meeting after signing a memorandum of understanding to pursue a regional recycling partnership. The decision is spurred in part by rising rates from Waste Management. (NEW - October 2019) 

Georgia

Effects and Solutions

  • The Athens-Clarke County MRF is feeling market effects and has seen outbound contamination rates more than double. (July 2018)
  • Augusta considers ending its curbside recycling program as processing costs are expected to increase significantly in 2019. Savannah receives just one bid for a recycling contract and expects to go from earning $15 per ton from Pratt Recycling to paying for the service. (November 2018)
  • Thomasville cuts mixed plastics and glass from its drop-off program. (July 2018)
  • Bulloch County stops accepting all plastics at its drop-off recycling centers. The Candler County Recycling Center, which was sending material to Bulloch, cancels its own plastic recycling program as a result. (September 2018)
  • In an effort to strengthen local recycling programs through regionalization, Hall County approves an agreement to take material from neighboring Lumpkin County. Hall will pay half the market rate for cardboard, but will not pay for plastic, metal or paper. (April 2019)
  • Gainesville reaches a new deal to send recyclables to Hall County, versus Athens, and maintain the same rates – but will drop glass. Athens-Clarke County reports paying its highest processing fees ever, with recycling now costing $30 more per ton than landfill disposal. (June 2019) 
  • Peachtree City's recycling center stops accepting plastics, aluminum and other metals. (August 2019)

Hawaii

While recycling regulations are controlled by Hawaii's four counties rather than the state's Department of Health, changes to local regulations and the state solid waste management plan would be required for any material disposal. Island geography renders the state completely reliant on foreign export markets for just about everything besides glass and aluminum, which go to the mainland. Incentive to recycle is high, especially on outer islands with limited landfill capacity.

Effects and Solutions

  • Honolulu was already struggling with recycling markets prior to China's announcement, so some parties support an October 2017 city auditor report recommending that recyclables be sent to the H-POWER incinerator. The City Council votes the idea down. (Nov. 2017) 
  • Maui County is no longer accepting mixed paper or mixed plastics at its drop-off center. Kauai County stops taking mixed plastics. (January-February 2018)
  • Honolulu's Refuse Division reports that market options have narrowed in recent months, with much more stockpiling, due to saturation of Southeast Asian markets. Following an initial backlog, RRR Recycling reports finding new markets in South Korea and Thailand, as well as on the mainland. (Summer 2018)
  • Hawaii County will no longer accept #5 plastics at its transfer stations and recycling centers. (November 2018)
  • Hawaii County stops taking all paper and plastics, effective Oct. 16, following contractor Business Services Hawaii’s request to end its agreements over costs and contamination. The county struck a compromise that will be less expensive than the original contract. In response, local residents are organizing collection drives for plastics to be used as building materials. (NEW - October-November 2019)

Idaho

Idaho's proximity to the Pacific Northwest, which had been reliant on export markets, made it susceptible to many of the initial side effects such as pricing shifts and cutting material from curbside programs. Numerous municipalities have been faced with decisions about the economic viability of their programs.

Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality reported, as of summer 2019, that recyclers are still having difficulty finding markets for various commodities. According to the agency, formerly commingled programs have had to start sorting and recovery rates are lower.

Effects

  • Following decisions by PSI Environmental and Magic Valley Recycling, residents in Twin Falls and surrounding areas lose access to mixed plastics recycling. Republic Services drops mixed plastics #3-7 for residents in Southwest areas such as Ada County, which includes Boise, Meridian and Garden City. (January 2018)
  • Blaine County drops mixed paper. Nearly 250,000 tons have been stockpiled with no market. (May 2018)
  • The city of Moscow decides to cut mixed plastics, aluminum foil and trays, aseptic packaging and other items from its curbside program. (August 2018)
  • Coeur d’Alene is currently paying $17,000 per month to keep its program afloat. Both Idaho and Clearwater counties will no longer be recycling plastic, with Lewis Clark Recyclers discontinuing the service after extended periods of financial difficulty. (October 2018)
  • Twin Falls will no longer accept plastics or mixed paper as of Oct. 1, a move the city estimates will save about $70,000 per year. (August 2019)
  • Idaho Falls also ends paper and plastics drop-offs at its recycling center, citing the surprise closure of a facility in Utah. (September 2019)
  • Custer County begins charging a new fee for drop-off cardboard recycling, to help cover higher costs, but reports still landfilling material on a regular basis due to lack of markets. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • Boise launches the Hefty EnergyBag program for select plastics, which are collected via special orange bags and sent to Renewlogy's Utah facility for chemical recycling. Meridian officially reaches an agreement with Boise to participate in the program, following nearby Garden City and Eagle. (June-July 2018)
  • Blaine County reaches an agreement with Hamilton Manufacturing to purchase bales of clean paper for $65 per ton. Residents can now recycle newspaper and print/copy paper through their dual-stream system. (March 2019)
  • While material going to Renewlogy is temporarily stalled amid facility upgrades, Boise reports success with its outreach efforts. The city’s Public Works Department is supporting waste reduction and a citizen engagement campaign. (July 2019)

Illinois

In July 2018, the state's Environmental Protection Agency said it was actively working with local government and industry to evaluate issues with recycling contamination. Since then, a task force has been launched to address the issue with educational messaging and resources.

As of summer 2019, the task force’s work continued. At the time, the agency was aware of minor service disruptions in some areas and increased difficulty shipping certain types of plastics.

Effects

  • Plastics processor and exporter Parc. Corp cited China's new policies as the main reason for closing its Romeoville facility. (January 2018)
  • Multiple municipalities and villages (largely serviced by Republic Services and Waste Connections subsidiary Groot Industries) are faced with potential contract changes. Republic has been emphasizing proper education at local council meetings. (July 2018)
  • Republic Services says it will no longer offer curbside service in the city of Kankakee due to rejection rates as high as 85% for residential loads. Weeks later, city officials decide to hold Republic to its contract that runs through 2020. (August 2018)
  • Southern Recycling Center in Carbondale is no longer accepting plastics #3-7. (September 2018)
  • Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful is currently storing more than seven tons of plastic in its Rockford facility, with no buyers in sight. (November 2018)
  • The city of Olney suspends curbside recycling, citing "difficulties presented in the current recycling market" and says "it is our sincere hope to reinstate a recycling service as soon as possible." (December 2018)
  • Southern Recycling, which is reportedly sitting on 400,000 pounds of mixed plastic, has told large clients to stop sending new material. Ogle County is closing drop-off centers in five separate cities. (January 2019)
  • Quincy decides to start charging residents $5 per month for opt-in recycling service (which was previously free) in a January vote. Private company Quincy Recycling stops accepting drop-off material, and the city council decides not to purchase new recycling bins due to low opt-in interest. (January-March 2019)
  • Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful will close one drop-off center and no longer accept paper, plastic or glass at another. (April 2019)
  • We Care Recycling's Carlinville drop-off site will close and another drop-off site in Teutopolis will no longer accept plastics. Meredosia officials are ending the village's recycling program. (May-June 2019)
  • The Montgomery County Board decides to end its local recycling drop-off program, effective Dec. 1. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • Midwest Fiber has reportedly shifted material to new markets in Vietnam and India, increasing its workforce by about 20% to meet new standards. (September 2018)
  • Republic Services has announces plans to conduct an audit of recycling contamination in Kankakee and potentially discontinue service for repeat offenders. (October 2018)
  • Waste Management is seeking rate increases with additional municipalities, including Oak Park and Elgin. The latter reports company education efforts helped decrease contamination rates from 40% to 16% since 2016. (November 2018)
  • Pontiac agrees to a new 10-year contract with Republic that will come with higher rates and new details around the allowable size of carts. (December 2018)
  • Midwest Fiber will invest $3 million in its Normal MRF for upgrades, including a new optical sorter, that will boost processing rates from 13 tons per hour to 20-plus. The Ecology Action Center is pushing a new contamination campaign. (April 2019)
  • Waste Management is cracking down on contamination in Oak Park and will not collect carts with repeat issues after a warning period. (May 2019)

Indiana

The state's strong manufacturing base provides in-state markets for recyclables and supports continued investments in recycling infrastructure, according to Indiana's Department of Environmental Management in summer 2019. The Indiana Recycling Market Development Program increased available funding for recycling projects to $2 million and its board is working with a new mission to "promote innovative projects to make Indiana a leader in recycling and waste reduction."

Effects

  • Republic Services is nearly doubling rates for Indianapolis residents – the maximum allowed under its contract. Rumpke has raised rates in Brownstown, and Republic Services will no longer accept glass at Greene County recycling centers due to fiber contamination. Johnson County will close all of its "Recycle Spot" drop-off sites by the end of July. (June-July 2018)
  • Borden Waste-Away Service is the only company to bid on a new contract with St. Joseph County and is asking for a 10-year extension. Wallace Brothers Disposal & Recycling will no longer offer curbside recycling service. (August 2018)
  • Tri-State Resource Recovery reports it has sent some mixed plastics to landfill in recent months due to market constraints. (January 2019)
  • Martin County has few if any buyers left for its cardboard or paperboard, meaning some or all of it may end up in the area landfill. (April 2019)
  • Republic discontinues subscription collection service to an estimated 75 homes in Vigo County, citing financial strains and poor route density. Delphi and Flora are among the municipalities to suspend curbside recycling for the near-term following a fire at an area recycling facility. (September 2019)

Solutions

  • In Terre Haute, where Republic Services is warning that mixed paper has lost all value and Goodwill Industries will no longer accept material, city officials are looking for ways to ensure recycling stays viable – including free drop-off sites. (June 2018)
  • The small town of Markle recently approved an arrangement with Waste Management in which it will split expenses if recycling costs exceed $30 per ton. (November 2018)
  • Local companies such as Recycling Works have been affected by market changes, but less so because of ongoing domestic relationships. Bartholomew County's material is also finding domestic buyers such as WestRock and KW Plastics, but multiple local governments in the area are still feeling financial effects. (March 2019)
  • Johnson County reopens its drop-off recycling center, after closing due to contamination challenges. Tippecanoe County passes an ordinance fining residents for unsanctioned items at drop-off centers, as the sites sees increased demand following the closure of one earlier in the year. (August 2019)

Iowa

The Nov. 2017 edition of the Iowa Recycling Association's newsletter featured detailed interviews with many of the state's largest recyclers. While none reported program changes or market collapses in the state, prices for mixed paper and rigid plastics were cited as problematic.

Effects vary from region to region across the state as of summer 2019, according to Iowa's Department of Natural Resources. The agency helped organize a new think tank group in 2019 to begin thinking about long-term goals for recycling beyond getting through the current market challenges.

Effects

  • Mid America Recycling is forced to send an estimated 1,644 tons of mixed paper to landfill over a six-month period. President Mick Barry describes it as a “short-term perfect storm” of one mill buyer dropping off due to freight costs and another closing its mill for a multi-month retrofit. (February-June 2018)
  • Market effects have begun to sink in around the state. Scott County has seen mixed paper prices drop from $75 to $2 per ton. In Rock Island County, Republic Services is now paying $5 per ton to move it, compared to earning $50 per ton last year. (June 2018)
  • Des Moines’ recycling program is projected to run a $50,000 deficit in the next fiscal year. (December 2018)
  • According to a survey conducted by the Iowa Recycling Association tracking effects in the state, one out of 10 major recycling operators reported landfilling material, two reported dropping items from their lists and two reported stockpiling. (April 2019)
  • The Grinnell City Council votes to end curbside service, effective in late June, and focus on drop-off instead. (March 2019)
  • Muscatine ends its drop-off recycling program. (June 2019)

Solutions

  • In an effort to offset revenue losses from commodities, the Waste Commission of Scott County has more than quadrupled the amount of material it takes in (adding a second shift to do so) and invested in new equipment to improve quality.(August 2019)
  • Cedar Valley Recycling stops taking Waterloo’s material, after declining to bid on a new contract in 2018. The city works out a temporary agreement with Republic before finalizing a deal to continue curbside and drop-off service at higher rates. (July-August 2019)
  • The Metro Waste Authority is moving ahead with plans to construct a new single-stream MRF in the Des Moines area. While the decision is described as a way to regain public sector autonomy, Mid America (which currently handles the material) pushes back on the necessity of a new facility. (NEW - August-October 2019)

Kansas

Low commodity prices have forced many state recyclers to pursue new financial support from local governments, according to communication with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in summer 2019. Those without support from government officials have had to cease operations or scale back operations. The agency reports some local programs “have begun landfilling recycling due to the low cost.”

Effects and Solutions

  • Shawnee County is raising awareness about contamination ahead of an expected price increase when its Waste Management contract comes up for renewal. (June 2018)
  • Waste Connections enacts a new $90-per-ton tip fee for recyclables and removes free drop-off bins in the Wichita area. Non-profit PRo Kansas Recycling is stuck with an estimated 70,000 tons of recyclables. (July 2018)
  • Roeland Park officials are told recyclables could end up in an area landfill if the local contamination rate of around 8% doesn’t improve. (August 2018)
  • Stutzman Refuse Disposal has reportedly landfilled plastic bales in recent months due to limited market options. (February 2019)
  • Costs are on the rise for more Kansas municipalities. Wellington expects to see at least a $33,000 increase this year, and Winfield is projecting a $150,000 increase. (March 2019)
  • Wellington will now only accept plastics #1-2, cardboard and office paper. The Southeast Recycling Center in Pittsburg is reported to be “nearly broke.” (April 2019)
  • El Dorado ends its curbside recycling program due to rising costs. The city estimates it will save $50,000 per year. Waste Connections leans on Newton to improve its contamination rates, as required under contract terms, as costs also rise. (August 2019)
  • PRo Kansas Recycling sees increased volumes at its Wichita facility, following the closure of other centers in the region, and requests donations to help pay for necessary equipment upgrades. (August 2019)
  • Augusta may also cancel its curbside program ahead of expected cost increases when a current contract with Waste Connections expires. Temps Disposal ends subscription service in Marshall County. (NEW - October 2019)

Kentucky

While the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection didn't observe immediate market changes following China's announcement, the state agency reported in summer 2019 it had seen MRFs experience increasing difficulty finding markets for low-grade paper. The agency has also considered facilitating the formation of a statewide recycling organization, with public and private sector participants, to better address ongoing changes.

Effects

  • WestRock reports sitting on 800 tons of mixed paper at its Louisville MRF. (October 2018)
  • Logan County sees recycling expenses with Scott Waste Service more than quadruple for the year, as compared to 2017. Southern Recycling, which services Warren County, reports having more difficulty finding end markets. (November 2018)
  • Lexington’s abrupt decision to stop accepting mixed paper comes as a surprise to many, though the publicly-run MRF reports operating at an estimated $500,000 loss in 2018. The move affects more than a dozen municipalities, counties and schools throughout the region that send material to its MRF. Winchester Municipal Utilities cancels curbside service as a result. (May 2019)
  • Southcentral Kentucky communities – including Metcalfe County, Cave City and Glasgow – report difficulty selling recyclables. (June 2019)
  • Madison County ends its curbside recycling program, citing changes at Lexington’s MRF and broader market conditions. (July 2019)
  • Owensboro ends all plastic recycling at its drop-off center, citing financial issues. The alternative of shipping material to Evansville, Indiana, as some other municipalities do, is significantly more expensive than landfill disposal. (September 2019)

Solutions

  • Rumpke announces plans to move its mixed paper volumes elsewhere, following Lexington’s decision, and Louisville reports it will not be affected. (May 2019)
  • Following Lexington's decision to stop accepting mixed paper, local officials and some residents in Frankfort and Franklin County consider composting paper as an alternative. (May 2019)
  • Lexington hires Resource Recycling Systems to help reset its recycling program and analyze potential solutions. (June 2019)
  • Lexington launches a pilot paper recycling program for government employees, as efforts continue to revive paper recycling citywide. (NEW - October 2019)

Louisiana

Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality doesn’t regulate recycling and, as of summer 2019, did not have any data on local market conditions.

Effects and Solutions

  • Baton Rouge's recyclables are continuing to find domestic markets, albeit with increased competition. Market changes have not had a discernible effect on programs in Terrebonne Parish. Republic Services informs customers in Ascension Parish it will no longer offer recycling service. (March 2019)
  • Republic announces its Metairie facility will no longer accept residential recyclables effective mid-May, citing high contamination rates. New Orleans will cut mixed plastics, cartons and bags from its program to meet new standards at a different facility. (May 2019)
  • Slidell limits curbside pickup to once a week. Sulphur announces plans to close recycling drop-off sites due to heavy contamination. Jefferson Parish will recycle only paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel cans and plastics #1-2 for the foreseeable future; plastics #3-7 will likely be landfilled. (June 2019)
  • Gretna scales back its curbside recycling program to only include plastics #1-2, paper products, cardboard, boxboard, steel and aluminum. Plaquemines Parish discontinues its drop-off recycling program. (August 2019)
  • St. Charles Parish will close all recycling drop-off sites, citing significant cost increases with Republic, effective in November. (NEW - October 2019)

Maine

Now-former Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Paul Mercer described Maine as being "significantly impacted" in summer 2018, noting the agency’s emphasis on market development and education.

As of summer 2019, the DEP described local effects as ranging from “extreme to minimal.” Certain communities with single-stream have reportedly seen price increases after contract renewals, with some cutting challenging materials such as mixed plastics. Education remains an ongoing focus and the state is also pursuing plans for an extended producer responsibility system around packaging.

Effects

  • Casella Waste Systems, Coastal Recycling and ecomaine are struggling to move material - particularly mixed paper. (January 2018)
  • The Tri-County Solid Waste transfer station, which provides drop-off service for multiple rural communities, stops accepting all plastics except #2. Lincoln County follows suit. (Spring 2018)
  • Following market shifts, ecomaine is now facing a $300,000 revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year and is adding workers to adapt to new standards. Gouldsboro cancels curbside service after Casella increased prices from $45 to $140 per ton, and said they could potentially go as high as $200. The Unity Area Regional Recycling Center stops accepting most types of plastic. Wilton starts requiring source-separation at its drop-off site. (Summer 2018)
  • Soaring costs of $140 per ton in some cases leads six municipalities to suspend recycling service until a new Fiberight facility opens. Manchester ends its single-sort drop-off program due to contamination rates of more than 20%, which resulted in expensive fees from ecomaine. (September 2018)
  • Casella asks Lewiston to renegotiate a recycling contract that runs until 2026 with no processing costs, but the city refuses. Meanwhile, other towns are paying the company $75-125 per ton. Winslow closes its drop-off site. (November 2018)
  • Augusta decides to close two of the city's four recycling drop-off sites, the only ones open 24/7, due to persistent contamination issues that couldn't be addressed with extra staffing. (December 2018)
  • Presque Isle residents now have a new drop-off recycling site following the end of a curbside program pending local changes. Ellsworth will no longer take glass, mixed paper and mixed plastics at its transfer station. Hancock-based nonprofit Coastal Recycling will close due to lost revenue. The town of Bradley ends curbside service, following a new bid that was nearly double its current cost. (January 2019)
  • Multiple municipalities are expecting further cost increases, including Brunswick, which has seen its recycling budget increase by $150,000. (May 2019)
  • Westbrook reports contamination fees from Casella are costing an estimated $5,000 per month. (July 2019)
  • Kennebunkport moves to cancel its curbside program after facing costs under a new Casella contract that would be more than triple the current rate. (August 2019)
  • Brunswick anticipates significant cost increases from Casella when its contract expires in 2020. Casella stops accepting all plastics except #2 at its transfer station in Houlton. (NEW - Fall 2019)

Solutions

  • Ecomaine will start charging $70 per ton for processing and an additional fee of up to $70.50 per ton of material above its contamination threshold. The nonprofit hosts a press conference to begin raising awareness about its 15% incoming contamination rate. (May 2018)
  • The ecomaine fees get results, driving inbound contamination rates down to 7% at the nonprofit’s Portland MRF. After facing a potential $100,000 fine, the city of Sanford is among those now turning things around. (May-July 2018)
  • Four southern municipalities hire summer interns to help conduct targeted cart-tagging and education campaigns. The program is later deemed a success, with contamination rates and requisite fees coming down over the summer. (April-July 2019)
  • Gov. Janet Mills signs a law directing the state’s DEP to develop extended producer responsibility legislation for packaging.  The Auburn City Council decides against suspending curbside collection, instead opting to create a committee that will evaluate the program's long-term future. (May 2019)
  • Fiberight ramps up its long-awaited mixed waste facility, serving more than 100 municipalities, and offering a destination for recyclables to multiple towns that suspended curbside programs in 2018. (Summer 2019)

Maryland

The Department of the Environment initially noted "significantly higher" recycling costs for counties and more local outreach around contamination. As of summer 2019, the agency reported “local recycling programs continue, with few changes to materials accepted.” An increased focus on materials not affected by commodity markets, such as organics, has also been noted.

Effects and Solutions

  • Carroll and Anne Arundel counties see large cost swings, and Baltimore's processing fee goes up sharply under a new contract. (June 2018)
  • Waste Management's Elkridge MRF is making no money on mixed plastics or paper, although viable export markets still exist for cardboard. Washington County's Forty West Landfill stops accepting plastics bags or film at its drop-off site. (July 2018)
  • Prince George's County reports losing nearly $2.7 million on its recycling program in 2018 (as compared to earning $750,000 in 2017). (March 2019)
  • Due to lack of capacity, Montgomery County is spending almost $1 million per year to ship materials to a processing center in York, Pennsylvania. (March 2019)
  • Annapolis will no longer allow plastic bags or thin film in its curbside recycling program. (April 2019)
  • Washington County plans to rebid contracts for recycling and trash, citing excessive fee increases from current contractor Apple Valley Waste. (July 2019)
  • Howard County announces it will stop recycling school cafeterias as of September 2020, following a directive from Waste Management that any material collected in plastic bags, versus collected loose in containers, would no longer be accepted. (Sept. 2019)

Massachusetts

The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) reported “the international commodity market downturn has had a significant impact on recycling processing costs” as of summer 2019. The agency has been fielding questions from businesses and municipalities since fall 2017 as market effects sunk in.

Due to a capacity issue in one region of the state, MassDEP issued 70 disposal waivers for unsorted single-stream material through October 2018. Many are short-term waivers that must get re-approved, hence the high number, and material disposed accounts for about 2% of the overall recycling stream at the time.

To address ongoing challenges, MassDEP has been convening stakeholders, sharing its existing “Recycling IQ Kit" contamination tool through grants, continuing to disburse grant funding for other recycling programs and launched a new statewide education campaign.

Effects

  • Casella Waste Systems reports spending more on labor during its Q3 earnings call as market conditions worsen. (November 2017)
  • E.L. Harvey & Sons becomes the source of frequent local and national media attention as baled material piles up. (January 2018)
  • The surprise closure of an Ardagh bottling plant leads to widespread market challenges for glass in the region. MassDEP approves multiple short-term waivers as recyclers look for solutions. (March 2018)
  • ABC Disposal threatens to cancel service for multiple municipalities unless they agree to higher rates mid-contract. Plymouth chooses to cancel its contract, leaving residents to seek subscription service as the only option. New Bedford attempts to force the company's hand through an injunction, but loses in court. ABC later countersues New Bedford. (May-August 2018)
  • WeCare Environmental abruptly announces plans to shutter its recycling facility by June 2018, leaving municipalities scrambling. The company says market conditions were a key factor. It hopes to relocate into a larger facility soon, but hasn’t by the end of summer 2018. (May-August 2018)
  • Worcester is now paying more to recycle with Casella than dispose with Wheelabrator. While the city never actually recouped its recycling costs in the past, those costs are expected to rise further by $300,000 next year. Worcester is pursuing various contamination reduction strategies to reduce costs. (July-August 2018)
  • Falmouth stops accepting material at its drop-off site – for the second time in 2018 – though curbside service will continue. (July 2018)
  • The Waltham City Council votes to approve $100,000 for rising costs with EZ Disposal. Waste Management is seeking an annual price increase of more than $160,000 in Mansfield. (August 2018)
  • Lowell is now paying an estimated $75 per ton to recycle with Waste Management, which will increase annual costs by at least $500,000. Recycling is currently costing Sherborn 30% more than refuse. (September 2018)
  • Rates may soon rise for at least some of the dozen municipalities that are part of the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste District, due to commodity market constraints. (January 2019)
  • Boston’s residential recycling costs increase significantly after the city puts out its RFP for a new contract and Casella is the only company to respond. High contamination rates are said to be a factor. (June 2019)
  • Revere is now paying more per ton to recycle than ship its waste to an area incinerator for disposal. Additional funding has been allocated to the recycling budget for this year as a result. (March 2019)

Solutions

Michigan

As of November 2017, the state's Department of Environmental Quality had already been focusing on cleaning up the stream. Per state law, MRFs are required to remain under a 10% residual rate so that adds further incentive to produce good product. DEQ was also interested in seeing expansion of continental markets for material such as cardboard and mixed plastics to decrease reliance on exporting.

By summer 2019, the renamed Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes (EGLE) and Energy’s Matt Flechter reported “the low market prices have resulted in MRFs raising prices for processing,” and some were believed to be “using the opportunity to adjust processing costs beyond what would be expected from commodity price adjustments alone.”

According to Flechter, this has “significantly strained collection programs, with some questioning their long-term viability.” On the positive side, he noted increased investments in processing capacity, contamination reduction and local end markets. A statewide education campaign, and ongoing grant funding, are intended to encourage that activity.

Effects

  • Jackson County stops taking rigid plastics at its drop-off center and reduces hours to try and improve material quality. (June 2018)
  • Kent County has lost more than $1 million due to market swings and may now double the cost to tip at its MRF starting in 2019. The county later projects a $1.5 million loss and will increase its tip fee from $35 to $65. The county could still be faced with a $500,000 shortfall. (June-September 2018)
  • The townships of Adrian, Raisin and Tecumseh are all faced with cost increases from Modern Waste to handle their drop-off sites. Raisin and Tecumseh choose to discontinue their shared program, followed by Adrian doing the same. (Summer 2018)
  • After GFL Environmental said it would begin charging non-profit Recycle Livingston $200 per ton, the center is raising fees and no longer accepting plastics #3-7. (August 2018)
  • Westland begins disposing all of its recyclables after a tip fee increase from $18 to $80 at a local Republic Services MRF. After facing public pressure, including from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the Westland City Council decides against sending material to a Detroit incinerator and is instead shipping it to a landfill. (February-March 2019)
  • Marysville is finalizing a new contract with Emterra Environmental that will cut glass, newspaper, mixed paper and other items from its curbside program. GFL Environmental sends letters to the 65 municipalities it contracts with that says the recycling market has "collapsed." (March 2019)
  • The Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recovery Authority, which services 12 communities at its MRF, anticipates it will likely need to begin charging members for the upcoming fiscal year rather than offer a rebate. (April 2019)
  • Ypsilanti cuts glass from its curbside program, at the directive of the Western Washtenaw Recycling Authority. (August 2019)
  • Frenchtown Charter Township suspends curbside service, per a new contract with Stevens Disposal. (NEW - November 2019)

Solutions

  • Gov. Rick Snyder calls failed efforts to double the state's recycling rate one of the most disappointing initiatives" of his tenure and talk ramps up about strengthening local infrastructure. (January 2018)
  • Richmond approves a new contract with Waste Management that will increase annual costs per household by $6, but also offer an earlier termination date if the city wants to look for other bids in the future. (August 2018)
  • Gov. Snyder, in his final weeks in office, re-ups calls to pass "Renew Michigan" legislation. The bill eventually passes, with a different funding source than expected, and will bring an additional $15 million to the state’s recycling budget each year. (Late 2018)
  • Battle Creek agrees to a new contract with Waste Management that will switch to biweekly collection, while keeping rates the same. (January 2019)
  • As costs increase for municipalities around Lansing and Kent County, Michigan EGLE reports more material is going to local markets and announces plans to award up to $3.7 million in infrastructure grants during 2019 thanks to its new budget windfall. (February 2019)
  • Isabella County changes tips fees for commercial haulers at its MRF to a new two-tiered system based on contamination rates. Municipal members of the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County aren't affected by market changes due to strong contract terms in their favor. (March 2019)
  • Michigan EGLE launches a new $2 million statewide education campaign, called “Know It Before You Throw It,” featuring raccoon mascots. The goal is to focus on commonly accepted materials across all regions. (June 2019)
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs an executive order calling for a statewide rededication to recycling, including multiple reporting requirements and new expectations for recycling at state government buildings. (September 2019)
  • Emmet County, long a national model in recycling circles, reports it has been relatively unaffected by market issues. The county’s dual-stream system and relationships with domestic buyers are cited as key reasons. (NEW - November 2019)

Minnesota

Minnesota appeared to be far less affected by commodity market trends at first, as reported during the Resource Recycling Conference in fall 2017, due in large part to a more robust network of domestic end markets, but eventually felt price declines like everyone else. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is continually working to encourage the growth of new local markets. The agency put out guidance in July 2018 asking for better sorting and for more manufacturers to use recycled feedstock.

In summer 2019, it reported efforts to focus on mixed paper capacity and plans to distribute new market development grant funding.

Effects

  • MRFs report the usual challenges with tighter quality standards and depressed commodity prices, but say they are faring better than other states. The MPCA said it was "a long way away" from approving disposal waivers. (January 2018)
  • Conditions have gotten a little tougher for operators such as Eureka Recycling. Vida Recycling Corporation is sitting on 300 tons of mixed paper. (March 2018)
  • MRF operators meet with MPCA about worsening economic conditions, especially for mixed paper. Mankato and North Mankato, which both send their material to transfer sites for further sorting at MRFs operated by Waste Management and Dem-Con, could soon see rate increases. Eureka lays off six education and advocacy staff due to lost revenue. Dem-Con expects monthly residential rates in its service area could go up by $8-10. (July 2018)
  • The Olmsted County Recycling Center now only accepts corrugated cardboard. (August 2018)
  • Minneapolis begins asking residents to keep black plastic and #6 plastics out of their curbside recycling – following longtime guidance from Eureka Recycling. (February 2019)
  • Amid ongoing financial challenges, St. Louis County is no longer accepting mixed plastics. (April 2019)

Solutions

  • While the University of Minnesota has to store recyclables longer than usual, the school is still faring better than most because it source-separates material for a higher quality. Polk County also reports a better experience, due in part to a recent $8 million facility upgrade and higher volume from servicing multiple counties. (March 2019)
  • Dilworth launches biweekly curbside collection service, despite broader market changes, for an additional cost of $2.35 per month. (August 2019)
  • After moving to end curbside collection for residents, following a much higher bid from Southwest Sanitation, Lyon County reverses course due to public response. Instead, commissioners increased annual solid waste assessments to cover the difference. (NEW - September-October 2019)
  • In an effort to preserve funding for drop-off sites, Crow Wing County decides to stop providing state-derived funds to help local haulers subsidize curbside service. Companies have a range of reactions, but some say it’s a good opportunity to start charging residents the true cost of service. (NEW - October 2019)
  • St. Paul and Minneapolis team up for a new Recycle Smart education campaign, supported by county funding, to reduce curbside contamination. Eureka launches a new app to improve communication with residents. (NEW - October 2019)

Mississippi

In June 2019, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality reported common challenges; high contamination rates and difficulty selling plastics, mixed paper and cardboard due to low commodity prices. According to state recycling coordinator Jennifer Milner, this has led to “significant increases” in residential collection and sorting costs.

That has compounded pre-existing challenges with Mississippi’s rural nature making MRFs less efficient and in some cases led companies to export material for processing in other states. Still, Milner said, "most of the state’s local government programs are working to maintain and in some cases grow their programs during this challenging time with only a few programs scaling back at this point."

Effects and Solutions

  • Jackson's Department of Public Works considered canceling curbside service. The city currently spends an estimated $1.1 million per year on recycling with Waste Management and said it could no longer cover the cost. (September 2018)
  • Ocean Springs and Gulfport agree to drop glass from their recycling programs at the request of Waste Pro. (April 2019)
  • The Jackson City Council unanimously votes to cancel curbside recycling service effective Sept. 1. Local officials have pledged to find alternative solutions and consider resuming service in the future. Meanwhile, Ridgeland reports its program is running strong. (August 2019)

Missouri

The state’s Department of Natural Resources reported recycling programs were facing similar issues with market availability and material quality as of summer 2019. According to the agency, “single stream recyclables have experienced the greatest impact, while dual stream and smaller collection centers with greater oversight on their collection [processes] are doing better.” The DNR has convened stakeholder meetings, as in other Midwestern states, and continues to fund local solid waste districts that are running contamination education campaigns.

Effects

  • 2 Rivers Industries stops accepting mixed plastics #3-7, including at the Hannibal recycling center. (December 2017)
  • Columbia stockpiles mixed plastics for months, until buyers from Ontario and North Carolina purchase the material. (April 2018)
  • After cancelling curbside service in 2017, Inter-Rail Systems Inc. tells Scott City it can no longer accept drop-off material for free. Officials say they expect the program will end as a result. (May 2018)
  • Multiple MRFs in the Kansas City region, including ones operated by Waste Management and WCA Waste, report a lack of market options. A Republic Services MRF in the St. Louis area reports similar challenges. (July 2018)
  • Fulton sees recycling costs increase from $10 to $120 per ton after a contract with Federal International Recycling ends. (October 2018)
  • Trenton (population around 6,000) cancels its curbside recycling program as part of a new contract with WCA Waste, citing low participation. Nixa residents will see recycling costs increase with Republic Services, and no longer have glass in their program. (November 2018)
  • Polk County's recycling center has been temporarily closed and its fate is uncertain as county officials are hesitant to raise rates. Meridian Waste cancels curbside service in Warrenton. (January 2019)
  • Republic Services will no longer offer curbside subscription service for multiple Cole County municipalities, with the exception of Jefferson City. This effectively ends curbside recycling for St. Martins, Wardsville, Taos and Russellville. (February 2019)
  • Curbside service will end due to high costs in Perryville⁠ (population around 8,500) — affecting about 1,000 households. (April 2019)
  • The city of Jackson is no longer accepting plastics #3-7 in its curbside program. (May 2019)
  • The city of Farmington decides to close its drop-off recycling center after ongoing contamination issues prompt rising costs with Republic Services. (July 2019)
  • Web-Co Custom Industries Inc. will close its drop-off center in Marshfield, following the recent closure of two other sites in the area. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • Kirkwood announces plans to suspend its curbside program by Oct. 2018 because processor Resource Management will no longer accept single-stream material, but ultimately the city decides to stay the course. (August-September 2018)
  • The Resource Management decision leads O'Fallon to suspend curbside collection of all fiber products. Other materials are sent to neighboring St. Peters, which is not charging a fee. (October 2018)
  • Multiple municipalities make moves to preserve their programs after the Resource Management news. Lake St. Louis drops paper, cardboard and glass. Kirkwood and Brentwood are among those to sign short-term agreements with Republic Services, prompting the company to increase its local operations. (October-December 2018)
  • The change prompts Meridian Waste Solutions to pitch dual-stream collection or cut materials, such as glass, for multiple area customers. This includes Fenton, Lake St. Louis Moscow Mills, Parkway, Troy,  Wentzville, Wright City and others. Wildwood is also on that list, before switching to another company due to service issues. (Fall 2018-Summer 2019)
  • The McDonald County Commission resumes drop-off recycling service, after a multi-month suspension. (May 2019)
  • The city of Union is developing educational materials and cart stickers, in partnership with service provider Waste Connections, to reduce contamination. (August 2019)

Montana

In Nov. 2017, the state's Department of Environmental Quality had begun hearing about market issues and projected they could worsen for a variety of reasons. According to subsequent DEQ reports, multiple companies and cities experienced issues moving material during 2018.

In summer 2019, the Recycle Montana association confirmed via email “the impact has been significant” and plastics (especially #3-7) have been dropped in many cases. The association is currently focused on contamination reduction and working to place education “trunks” in school systems throughout the state.

Effects

  • Pacific Steel and Recycling and Valley Recycling stop accepting plastics, while other companies export to Spokane. (January 2018)
  • Nonprofit AWARE Recycling plans to close because of state budget cuts and market effects. (March 2018)
  • Republic Services and Garden City Recycling stop taking mixed plastics #3-7 in the Missoula and Lake County area. Glacier National Park does the same. (April 2018)
  • Ravalli County Recycling, a small nonprofit drop-off operation, will close by the end of the year due in part to financial challenges. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • Butte reaches an agreement with McGree Trucking to continue curbside recycling after AWARE's closure left its program in jeopardy. The city will also hire a recycling educator to improve material quality. (July 2018)
  • Billings-based Earth First Aid Recycling reports laying off half its staff and taking out a loan over the summer to cover costs. Because Republic Services only collects recyclables in Billings the company temporarily stops taking new customers. (October 2018)
  • Valley Recycling begins accepting transparent plastic bottles at its facility in Kalispell through a pilot program. So far, contamination rates have been much lower than when plastic recycling was cut more than a year ago. (March 2019)
  • Pacific Steel and Recycling will begin charging a fee for cardboard and paper at its drop-off site in Billings, citing market conditions. (July 2019)

Nebraska

The Nebraska Recycling Council has posted guidance for members, including the recommendation that processors temporarily limit accepted plastic materials. In summer 2019, the NRC told Waste Dive some rural hub-and-spoke programs had been “more resilient because of the high quality, limited material they collect and the strong relationships they've fostered with their markets.” Glass recycling is also on the rise. Still, some programs that relied primarily on material revenue to operate have shut down.

Effects and Solutions

  • A decision by Omaha-based First Star Recycling, the state's largest MRF, to stop accepting single-stream commercial material catches local service providers and businesses by surprise. Companies and consulting groups begin advising customers about how this will affect their recycling systems. (May 2018)
  • The University of Nebraska Omaha is requiring all cardboard to be separated to meet First Star's new commercial sorting practices. (July 2018)
  • First Star and Mid America Recycling have reportedly raised rates, which in some cases are higher than local landfill fees. (October 2018)
  • Residents in Lincoln report bills for subscription service have increased with multiple companies. (August 2019)
  • Omaha only receives only one bid for its processing contract, from Firstar Fiber, and the proposed price is double what city officials expected. South Sioux City will cut mixed plastics from its program, effective in 2020. (NEW - October 2019)

Nevada

In November 2017, officials from the state's Department of Environmental Protection said China’s impending scrap import ban was “greatly affecting markets” since most recyclables from Nevada are sent to China through ports in Oakland or Los Angeles. Since then, news has been relatively quiet.

Recycling for the state’s major population centers is handled under long-term franchise agreements with Waste Management and Republic Services, meaning less of the usual volatility around contract negotiations and MRF pricing. As of June 2019, the DEP reported contamination remains a “significant problem” for multiple communities serviced by Waste Management. Plastic film and mixed rigids have been dropped in some cases. Following the completion of a new solid waste management plan, the agency plans to work on market development and an education campaign.

Effects and Solutions

  • The Salvation Army stopped collecting recyclables from local businesses as of Oct. 2017 due to cost issues. Waste Management was preparing to take over those contracts, largely to collect cardboard. (Fall 2017)
  • The Nevada Independent reports that Waste Management and Republic are experiencing the usual effects. Reno, serviced by Waste Management, has reduced its contamination rate to 25% and is pushing further. Customers in certain counties are now receiving fines for improper recycling. (August 2018)

New Hampshire

The state's Department of Environmental Services doesn’t directly track recycling markets, but is aware of local challenges. Analyst Michael Nork told Waste Dive in June 2019 “it is probably fair to say that every program has been negatively impacted,” but noted those effects vary. Single-stream programs have seen the greatest cost increases – in part because New Hampshire has no single-stream MRFs, so all material is shipped elsewhere – as compared to those with source-separated or dual-stream systems.

Some local programs have resorted to disposing certain material in situations where that is less expensive than recycling. While DES doesn’t require permission to do so, Nork said the agency advises that “should only be a short term solution until viable alternatives become available.” DES has limited ability for funding or technical assistance at this time, but has been working with regional groups such as the locally-based Northeast Resource Recovery Association on educational events and guidance.

Effects

Solutions

  • Rollinsford converts its drop-off recycling center to a source-separated system, including a new baler, to improve material quality. (January 2019)
  • After weighing whether to temporarily suspend recycling for the remainder of FY19, the Nashua City Council approves $120,000 in additional funding to keep it going. (March 2019)
  • Residents of Canterbury approve a symbolic town meeting petition stating recycling would continue for "all available materials" even if there was a "negative financial impact.” (March 2019)
  • Concord’s recycling program continues unscathed, due to a fixed rate contract with Casella Waste Systems that runs through 2024. The contractor has pushed to reduce the amount of plastic film or other contaminants in bins. (May 2019)
  • After the town of Bow cancels curbside recycling, following multiple months in which material was disposed of without public knowledge, it decides to revive the program. A new month-to-month agreement with service provider Pinard Waste will be based on material quality and rates charged by Casella’s regional MRF. (April-August 2019)
  • Gov. Chris Sununu signs a law establishing a statewide committee to study conditions and solutions for New Hampshire recycling programs. (July 2019)
  • The statewide legislative committee releases its report – after speaking with more than 50 stakeholders and hosting 14 meetings – outlining numerous recommendations for the state’s long-term waste strategy. (NEW - November 2019)

New Jersey

New Jersey is among a small list of states with mandatory recycling requirements, meaning larger changes to curbside programs are less likely and more complicated from a regulatory standpoint. Some municipalities have switched back to dual-stream systems, but that is dependent on regional infrastructure and local factors.

The Association of New Jersey Recyclers reported MRF operators were feeling many of the same national effects in the spring of 2018. The association confirmed those conditions have persisted as of summer 2019, with recycling costs nearing that of disposal in some cases. With many contracts due for renewal in 2020, additional price increases can be expected.

Effects

  • Giordano Co. asks municipalities to keep plastic bags and shredded paper out of the recycling stream. The company says it may drop mixed plastics, but not until the end of the year. (June 2018)
  • Maplewood starts including plastics #3-7, or any material in plastic bags, among its list of prohibited items. (July 2018)
  • Atlantic Coast Recycling in Passaic reports 10-25% of the material it takes in is now being landfilled due to contamination and tighter quality standards. Burlington County’s recycling program is expected to run a $3 million loss for the year due to shifting market conditions. (August 2018)
  • Material is reportedly being stockpiled around the state and municipalities are taking steps to cut back on common items that cause contamination. (September 2018)
  • The Atlantic County Utilities Authority announces it will no longer accept certain plastics based on shape, as well as other more commonly challenging items. (December 2018)
  • Westfield only accepts plastics #1-2, per a new contract with Giordano. The Cumberland County Improvement Authority does the same. Morris now only takes plastics #1, 2 and 5. (January 2019)
  • Blue Diamond Disposal begins asking municipal customers for rate increases, citing higher processing costs from a Republic MRF in its letter to Roxbury. Some customers, including Franklin, say the company’s contract doesn’t allow it. (January 2019)
  • The Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority has seen cardboard values drop from $75 to $5 per ton and anticipates higher costs for local towns. (March 2019)
  • Republic Services begins enforcing tighter inspection protocols at its MRF in Camden. The prompts a lawsuit from Camden County alleging breach of contract. (August 2019)

Solutions

  • The borough of Oakland announces a rare step of switching back to dual stream collection to improve material quality, and is also no longer accepting mixed plastics #3-7. (January 2018)
  • The state's Department of Environmental Protection sends a letter to local governments asking them to step up education and quality enforcement, pointing to successful examples. (May 2018)
  • GDB International says it’s sorting plastic into distinct bales and making more money by converting the material into pellets domestically rather than exporting it. (August 2018)
  • The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority announces plans to switch to dual-stream, with different materials collected on alternating weeks, effective in 2019. (November 2018)
  • Ocean County plans to invest $4 million in MRF upgrades, including $1.5 million from operator Atlantic Coast Recycling. (December 2018)
  • Montville Township is switching back to dual-stream collection, per the request of its contract Suburban Disposal, on an alternating biweekly schedule. (January 2019)
  • The state legislature’s environment committees hold a joint hearing on recycling conditions and solutions. Standardized education lists, a new market development council, business loans and additional research are among many ideas discussed. (August 2019)
  • Hoboken switches to dual-stream recycling collection, involving paper collection on a separate night, which it claims could save the city $200,000 per year. (September 2019)

New Mexico

New Mexico was among the early wave of states to feel effects in 2017, but has seen balance more recently. The Environment Department reports some smaller communities have seen their material displaced from the state’s two largest MRFs due to an operational backlog. This has led some to change their collection systems, drop materials from their programs or seek new markets. Despite these shifts, according to the agency’s Joan Snider in summer 2019, “to date we haven’t seen large changes in solid waste fees.”

The New Mexico Recycling Coalition is partnering with the state and others to help emphasize material quality through consistent messaging. Coalition director Sarah Pierpont agreed “the rural hubs that have single-stream are struggling” and said processing costs have doubled in some cases.

Effects

  • Sole area processor Friedman Recycling asks multiple cities, including Albuquerque, El Paso and Santa Fe, to renegotiate contract terms at its local MRFs. (March 2018)
  • Santa Fe approves a contract adjustment with Friedman that will be covered by cash reserves. This could increase costs by $540,000 to $720,000. (April 2018)
  • The South Central Solid Waste Authority approves a rate increase, which is estimated to generate an additional $40,000 per month for Friedman. (July 2018)
  • Recycling service in the small village of Bosque Farms is suspended. Reporting initially indicates Silver City has dropped all materials except cardboard. It’s later reported service will remain the same after a new processor is found. (July 2018)
  • Lincoln County is no longer accepting mixed paper or paperboard at drop-off sites. (August 2018)
  • The Greentree Solid Waste Authority will stop accepting mixed paper and paperboard for drop-off. (September 2018)
  • Silver City will end its curbside recycling program, and this time expects the decision to be permanent for the near future, as costs with Friedman Recycling are set to rise again. (May 2019)
  • The Taos Recycling Center will no longer take glass or plastic as of September. An additional $100,000 in reserve funding will be used to keep the center open for a six-month trial period. (August 2019)

Solutions

  • Las Cruces begins inspecting carts for contamination using The Recycling Partnership's positive feedback tag method, rather than a fee. Los Alamos County is focusing on education, in an effort to reduce its 17% contamination rate and stave off a potential rate increase from Friedman. (August-September 2018)
  • Albuquerque is launching a “Recycle Right ABQ” education program that will provide residents with tips on what shouldn't be recycled and share success stories. (November 2018)
  • Las Cruces has reportedly seen a 15-20% increase in quality following its cart inspection and tagging program. Rising processing costs with Friedman Recycling have led local governments that work with the company to start collaborating on new ideas. (January 2019)
  • Las Cruces and other local governments officially launch their efforts to improve material quality in the Rio Grande Recycling Corridor with a $125,000 grant focused on education. Working with the National Recycling Coalition and New Mexico Recycling Coalition, local officials also host a regional market development workshop. (June 2019)

New York

The Department of Environmental Conservation reported few known effects in the fall of 2017, but that began to change in 2018 and the agency later recognized that due to market volatility "some operations may find it challenging to find suitable outlets for some material."

By summer 2019, the DEC reported engagement on multiple fronts to address a trend of expensive shifts for local recycling programs. The agency pointed to a new education campaign and upcoming plastic bag ban as ways to improve contamination rates, along with ongoing grant support to municipalities.

Effects

  • St. Lawrence County had a $127,000 budget shortfall recently due to higher recycling costs. (June 2018)
  • Fort Edward cancels curbside service, revealing it has been disposing of residents' material after Waste Management closed a local drop-off site in 2017. Casella is losing $47 per ton on recyclables at its Ontario County MRF. Waste Connections subsidiary County Waste will start charging $120 per ton at its Albany MRF. This is expected to cost Albany itself $400,000 per year. (July 2018)
  • Columbia County will limit its recycling list, based on a new contract with Casella, to no longer include items with plastic coating or wax-coated paper. Processing costs have more than doubled. (August 2018)
  • Private haulers in New York City report difficulties moving material. Sims Municipal Recycling, the city’s residential MRF operator, can move material but is losing money on mixed paper. (August 2018)
  • Recycling costs for communities sending material to the Beacon ReCommunity MRF, now owned by Republic, are on the rise. (September 2018)
  • Green Stream Recycling, Brookhaven's MRF operator, announces plans to fold. This site had been experiencing challenges with moving material, to the point that waterlogged fiber bales had to be composted in one case. The company may not be able to pay the town an estimated $1.7 million owed. (October 2018)
  • Orange County begins charging $104 per ton to tip recyclables at its transfer station, due to higher rates from Waste Connections. The Suffolk County executive is pushing for a county-wide policy amid rising costs locally. Multiple towns in Warren County are also seeing rate increases. (December 2018)
  • Amherst is no longer accepting mixed plastics or glass in curbside collection, per Modern Disposal's request. Lansing also drops mixed plastics. Municipalities such as West Seneca, Wheatfield and Amherst are facing rising cost pressures. (January 2019)
  • The DEC sends a letter to local governments warning them that a market analysis would be expected to prove no markets exist for glass recycling, which is required by the state. (March 2019)
  • Smithtown, which has switched back to dual-stream like many Long Island municipalities, no longer accepts mixed plastics or glass in curbside collection. Free drop-off recycling will end at five Washington County transfer stations owned by Earth Waste and Metal. (April 2019)

Solutions

  • The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency announces it will stop accepting single-stream material as of Jan. 2019, and has sharply increased tip fees. The town of Ulster will take a similar step in Aug. 2018. (June/July 2018)
  • Rensselaer will raise rates by 27% to cover higher costs at Waste Connections’ County Waste MRF. Winter Bros. will honor its current contract with Oyster Bay in which the town earns $25 per ton of recycling, after initially trying to renegotiate for a $65 per ton charge, until it expires at the end of the year. (August 2018)
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs the DEC to "identify new actions to improve recycling in New York in response to changes in global recycling markets" and the agency holds a stakeholder meeting. It’s estimated these changes could cost local governments $78-100 million statewide. (August 2018)
  • The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency's WTE tip fee will increase by about 7% in 2019 to offset its recycling losses. The agency also signs a new contract with Waste Management that raises its cost cap from $10 per ton to $49. (October 2018)
  • Brookhaven decides to switch back to a dual-stream recycling system, and also drop glass, after its MRF operator closes, Multiple other towns that relied on the Green Stream facility will do the same. (November 2018)
  • Kingston will spend $400,000 to switch back to a dual-stream cart system, half of which will be covered by state funding. (November 2018)
  • Columbia County begins charging residents $50 per year for a recycling permit, the first time this service has cost them anything since it began in 1989. By the end of Jan. 2019, the county generates an estimated $120,000 in permit sales. (January 2019)
  • DEC launches a new “Recycle Right NY” campaign that will focus on how to handle one common material type per month throughout the year. (January 2019)
  • Brookhaven and Green Stream Recycling near a settlement after the company decided to exit a 25-year contract early. Potential terms could include a $1.42 million payment from the company, as well as converting equipment at the town-owned MRF for dual-stream processing. (March 2019)
  • Westchester County outlines how a dual-stream program and recent MRF upgrades have kept its local recycling program viable. (April 2019)

North Carolina

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality “is providing technical assistance and guidance to local recycling programs affected by changing market conditions and cost models for recycling,” according to a May 2019 press release. As in many states around the country, the DEQ has focused on educating residents to reduce contamination and developing more domestic processing capacity.

Effects

  • Sonoco reports market challenges and asks New Hanover County to stockpile cardboard. (February 2018)
  • Pink Trash tells customers costs will go up because it doesn't have a contract with Sonoco, and later tells Waste Dive education will be a higher priority to improve material quality. Raleigh is no longer receiving rebates from the company. Sonoco's terms will now affect Onslow County. (February-March 2018)
  • Lincolnton suspends curbside service after Sonoco can't move its material, but asks residents to continue sorting material as the city is "working diligently on alternatives.” (June 2018)
  • Wrightsville Beach was on track to launch a curbside recycling program with Pink Trash this year, but those plans are now on hold. (August 2018)
  • Signature Waste, a Charlotte-area company, announced it will stop accepting all plastics effective Jan. 1, 2019 due to contamination. Moore County approves a tip fee increase for recyclables at its local facility from $25 to $100. (December 2018)
  • Pinebluff reportedly cancels curbside service. Bessemer City gives serious consideration to canceling its program ahead of a contract renewal. No longer able to send recycling to Sonoco for free, Kings Mountain now expects to pay Republic $15,000 over the next six months. (January 2019)
  • Davidson County is faced with a per ton increase from $29 to $85 after Waste Management says it plans to terminate and renegotiate an existing deal. Greensboro is moving toward a deal that would cost $90 per ton by 2021 and drop glass. (March 2019)
  • Prices are rising dramatically for multiple local governments, with more pressure to drop glass. Lexington and Davidson County are set to see processing costs with Waste Management increase from $29 to $85 per ton. Thomasville is paying Republic Services $120 per ton. (April 2019)
  • The Greensboro City Council votes to cut glass, bulky plastic, shredded paper and cartons from its next recycling contract. The city will also close 20 drop-off sites due to illegal dumping. New Hanover County has been landfilling plastics #3-7, but reports stable options for other materials coming from the region. (May 2019)
  • Clinton stops accepting glass curbside, though it will still accept glass at convenience centers. (June 2019)
  • China Grove will discontinue curbside recycling after 2019, following a potential $106,000 cost increase with a GFL Environmental subsidiary. (NEW - November 2019)

Solutions

  • Rowan County has switched back to a source-separated system at its seven recycling centers, after going single-stream earlier this year, due to material backlogs. (July 2018)
  • After glass was cut in various parts of Moore County, officials teamed up with Strategic Materials for a solution that involves new drop-off options at the county's transfer station. (January 2019)
  • Following the rate increase by Moore County, local municipalities such as Aberdeen and Pinehurst are stepping up their efforts to reduce contamination below a regular threshold of 10% to possibly get a price break. (February-March 2019)
  • The Lincolnton City Council unanimously approves a new contract with Republic Services that will bring back curbside recycling as an opt-in service, and no longer allow glass. (March 2019)
  • The Craven County Board of Commissioners votes to end curbside service by the end of June, due to rising costs from GFL Environmental subsidiary Waste Industries. The board reverses course after a public outcry, switching to a monthly service at a new price. (April 2019)
  • Mecklenburg County starts asking residents to separate glass at its drop-off center, in an effort to ensure a cleaner, more marketable commodity. (June 2019)
  • The state launches an education campaign called “Recycle Right NC” to help residents find out the most updated guidelines in their areas. (September 2019)
  • Charlotte launches a cart tagging program, targeted at 3,000 homes in areas with higher contamination rates, in an effort to improve material quality. (NEW - October 2019)

North Dakota

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality has no oversight over recycling. The North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association also had no comment in summer 2019.

Effects and Solutions

  • Local companies such as MinnKota Recycling are said to be more insulated because of existing domestic market relationships. (March 2018)
  • Bismarck has decided to close all nine recycling drop-off sites, except one location at the area landfill, due to reports from Waste Management about contamination issues. The company will continue offering curbside service. (November 2018)
  • Fargo proposes a $65,000 increase in its recycling budget for the upcoming budget, including a rate increase for curbside service that began in 2017. Contamination has reportedly been an issue at drop-off sites. (August 2019)

Ohio

Ohio was less reliant on export markets, but is still being affected by the drop in commodity prices and competition for domestic buyers. The state's Environmental Protection Agency reported in June 2019 that “many communities have high levels of non-recyclable materials mixed in the recycling stream, increasing costs and lowering quality.”

To address this, the agency is currently funding a new education campaign around contamination, in collaboration with The Recycling Partnership. The state EPA also highlighted the Ohio Materials Marketplace, an online platform which connects buyers with materials and “has diverted 3.7 million pounds of material from landfills.”

Effects

  • The Athens-Hocking Recycling Center, which first reported market struggles in March, stops accepting plastic film. Canal Winchester removes all of its recycling drop-off locations due to ongoing contamination issues. The city could otherwise be liable for up to $22,000 per week in contamination fines. (June 2018)
  • Multiple Cuyahoga County cities are approached by service providers about renegotiating their contracts early. Sandusky is told by Republic Services it will lose drop-off recycling service as soon as October 2018 unless the city is willing to start paying $100,000 a year. Republic Services is no longer offering recycling to some rural customers in Clermont County. (September 2018)
  • Rates are expected to rise for residents in Northeast Ohio's Portage County. (February 2019)
  • The Southeastern Ohio Joint Solid Waste Management District is likely to close multiple drop-off sites due to contamination rates resulting in high charges from Waste Management. (March 2019)
  • Cleveland continues to have major contamination issues, with reports emerging that upward of 85-90% of its recyclables have been getting disposed for more than a year. (Summer 2019)
  • The city of Oregon moves to suspend its curbside recycling program, by approving a new contract with Republic Services that doesn’t include the service. The Southeastern Ohio Joint Solid Waste Management District tells Zanesville it will have to start paying processing costs in 2020. (September 2019)
  • CCH Environmental Group, a solid waste district servicing three counties, will no longer accept glass for drop-off recycling. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

Oklahoma

Market effects weren't expected to be as significant in Oklahoma, according to November 2017 correspondence with the state's Department of Environmental Quality, since many end markets are domestic. The Oklahoma Recycling Association confirmed this in June 2019: “because domestic markets provided stronger pricing for commodities in 2017, the bans had no impact on movement of recyclables.”

Effects and Solutions

  • Norman has begun to feel market effects, and may raise rates in the future, but hasn't changed its program yet. More details are expected when the city's contract with Republic Services expires over the summer of 2018. (January 2018)
  • Waste Connections stops providing drop-off service for Frederick due to high contamination rates. (June 2018)
  • Cedar Creek Farms, a recycling company, threatens to stop accepting single-stream material in September. Material had piled up to wait out market conditions. Stillwater steps in to assist with operations, and promised to improve education, in order to maintain service. (September 2019)
  • The Broken Arrow City Council approves the launch of a citywide curbside program, following a pilot, with expectations that most material will have regional markets. (NEW - November 2019)

Oregon

Oregon was one of the first states to feel the full brunt of China's effects in 2017, due to its “inexpensive and easy access” to container back hauls to China, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. It remained in the headlines for months as a result and many MRF operators were forced to request disposal permission. DEQ has been engaged from the start in terms of ongoing stakeholder meetings and transparency.

According to the agency's latest figures, (Aug. 29, 2019) there have been 26 disposal concurrences granted since Sept. 2017. This totaled 16,394 tons between Sept. 1, 2017 and July 31, 2019 – about 0.4% of statewide recycling activity during that time.

In June 2019, the DEQ reported that where programs made changes it was common to see mixed plastics get cut. Collection and processing fees have also increased throughout the state. The DEQ continues to engage with recycling stakeholders with monthly meetings.

Effects

Solutions

  • The Oregon Refuse & Recycling Association releases a draft list of suggested materials for municipalities to include in single-stream programs. Multiple MRFs later adopt this. Senator Ron Wyden co-signs a letter to the Chinese ambassador requesting more dialogue around import changes. (January 2018)
  • Milton-Freewater, one of the first to cancel curbside service, relaunches recycling as a drop-off option. (March 2018)
  • The National Recycling Coalition hosts its first in a series of market development workshops in Portland. Attendees discussed possible infrastructure investment in plastics processing capability or reopening paper mills. The Portland City Council approves a rate increase with Republic Services. (April 2018)
  • Rogue Disposal & Recycling says its newly limited list has had a noticeable effect on marketability, with 96% of its material going to market. The Metro regional government releases new guidance for Portland area residents about the future of recycling, previewing new grants for domestic processing. (June 2018)
  • U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer hosts a roundtable discussion with the Metro regional government to better understand recycling issues and plan federal action. (August 2018)
  • Coos County reportedly sees its contamination rate decrease by 20%, which officials attribute to a successful education campaign. The county is currently choosing to keep recycling service available at a loss of $90 per ton. (October 2018)
  • Roseburg Disposal will no longer accept glass bottles or jars, but will begin accepting certain plastic containers. (March 2019)
  • A Waste Connection subsidiary reaches an agreement to resume recycling for multiple cities in Hood River County, following a rate increase and agreement to cut mixed plastics. In Klamath Falls, non-profit REACH adds sorting capacity to help improve material quality in light of a proposed rate increase from Waste Management. (June 2019)
  • Metro releases a new guide to correct recycling in the Portland area, hoping to help reduce contamination. (July 2019)

Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center released guidance on National Sword in February 2018, including perspective from Chinese representatives for the state's Office of International Business Development.

In June 2019, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection told Waste Dive it had been working to convene meetings between private and public sector operators and emphasizing open communication. Dual-stream or source-separated programs have experienced fewer challenges, but all areas of the states have felt financial effects. A wave of attempted contract renegotiations for single-stream programs has been particularly striking, with glass getting cut in many cases.

“We've seen downturns in the marketplace before and we recovered from them,” said DEP’s Lawrence Holley. “Most importantly, we need to think about how we're going to begin to collect materials in a manner that does not create a less recyclable commodity.”

Effects

  • Crawford County suspends its drop-off program, after facing a potential $200 penalty from Waste Management for each contaminated load. (December 2017)
  • Waste Management stops accepting paper, cardboard and glass at an Erie County drop-off site. (May 2018)
  • Cost increases at Penn Waste will in turn affect customers serviced by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA). (June 2018)
  • Penn Waste announces a new list of accepted materials, which does not include mixed paper or multiple mixed plastics. The Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority announces its own list soon after, asking residents to focus on the "Big Four.” Cost increases from Penn will also affect LCSWMA. (Summer 2018)
  • Drop-off sites are being cut back in Monroe County. The Big Blue Bin drop-off program in Mercer and Lawrence counties is on the chopping block. Bradford Township cuts drop-off bins. Clearfield County stops accepting mixed paper at its drop-off site. (July 2018)
  • Penn Waste's efforts to renegotiate contracts officially become a campaign issue as owner Scott Wagner runs to unseat Gov. Tom Wagner. (August 2018)
  • Delaware County faces challenges due to rising costs. New terms from B&L Disposal are expected to cost Parkside $13,000 more per year. Centre County’s Recycling and Refuse Authority limits its list of accepted plastics at drop-off sites. (August 2018)
  • About half of Philadelphia's recyclables are now going directly to a Covanta incinerator after a contract with Republic Services wasn't renewed due to cost concerns. A temporary deal is struck with Waste Management for the other half of Philadelphia's material while the city solicits bids for a new 10-year contract. (Fall 2018)
  • Erie County residents are warned about upcoming plans to cut glass, plastic bags, shredded paper and mixed plastics from their curbside programs as of 2019. Bethel Park approves a new Waste Management contract that involves dropping mixed plastics and glass. (September 2018)
  • Grove City is now only accepting plastics #1, 2 and 5. (October 2018)
  • Advanced Disposal Services will no longer accept glass, foam, plastic food containers, pizza boxes or plastic bags from residents covered by the Southampton Township Trash Authority. (November 2018)
  • Waste Management will no longer accept bags, glass or mixed plastics from the South Hills Area Council of Government. Lawrence and Mercer counties will reduce drop-off service and not accept plastic, metal or glass. (December 2018)
  • Penn Hills agrees to a new contract with Republic Services that will cost more and drop items such as glass and mixed plastics. The same changes will take effect in Shaler and Wilkins. (November 2018-January 2019)
  • Mountour County ends drop-off recycling service, meaning residents will have to travel farther if they still want access. (January 2019)
  • After raising rates and rejecting plastics #3-7 in Delmont, Republic seeks a further rate increase and contract adjustment, frustrating some council members. (April 2019)
  • Philadelphia cancels its Philacycle rewards program, run by Recyclebank, due to market issues. (May 2019)

Solutions

  • The Closed Loop Fund teams up with the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center for a $5 million investment partnership. Palmer Township is getting extra stringent at its drop-off center, now planning to turn away any contaminated items and requiring residents to sign in. (August 2018)
  • Following many abrupt curbside contract changes, the Pennsylvania Resources Council launches an ongoing program that allows residents to drop off glass for recycling in more than a dozen municipalities around the Pittsburgh region. (March 2019)
  • Philadelphia announces a new contract with Waste Management that will cover all of its residential material, after months of temporary disposal, at a higher processing cost. The Lackawanna County Recycling Center begins turning away contaminated loads, directing at least three trucks to an area landfill so far. (April 2019)
  • Pittsburgh hosts multiple workshops to raise awareness about its "Better Recycling, Better Burgh" education campaign. The city only wants plastic bottles, tubs and jugs of three gallons or less. Mayor Bill Peduto calls for renewed dedication to recycling, and the city will distribute new bins to residents over the next two years. (June 2019)
  • J.P. Mascaro & Sons begins accepting flexible packaging in one curbside program, the first of what could be a broader push to remove the potential contaminant for value. Shell Chemicals gives Beaver County a $225,000 grant to help expand hours and accessibility at a local drop-off center. The funding stems from Shell’s construction of a major petrochemical plant in the area. (September 2019)

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s situation is unique, with material going to one main MRF operated by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) – a quasi-state agency. The agency didn’t report notable effects in 2017, but confirmed it was “feeling the financial strain” in summer 2019. Still, RIRRC continues to find markets for its materials, and hasn’t turned a profit since FY 15 anyway, so has no plans to change course.

RIRRC also revamped its municipal grant program to expand access in June 2018, is focused on improving commercial recycling quality and has put ongoing resources into a statewide education campaign around contamination. Since its launch in 2017, the “Let’s recycle RIght!” campaign resulted in an 18% reduction in rejected tonnage at the MRF.

Effects

  • The RIRRC MRF reports struggling to find markets for mixed paper and paying to move it. (March 2018)
  • In a status update, RIRRC reports it is no longer moving any material to China and expects mixed paper costs to result in an operating loss at the state's MRF for the current fiscal year. (August 2018)
  • Pawtucket's Department of Public Works reports the city has been charged $61,000 over the past nine months for rejected loads at the RIRRC MRF. The city projects that figure could reach $75,000 for the year if contamination issues aren't addressed. (May 2019)

Solutions

  • Ongoing contamination reduction efforts in Providence are beginning to show results, which is important because the city accounts for more than half of all contamination at the RIRRC MRF. Still, the city reports paying more than $40,000 per month in rejection fees. (February 2019)
  • RIRRC relaunches its "Let's Recycle RIght" public education campaign, with support from Gov. Gina Raimondo. The agency plans ads across a wide range of mediums, including trilingual mailers targeted at six communities with the highest contamination rates. (April 2019)

South Carolina

Like other states in the Southeast, South Carolina has been less affected by China's import restrictions. In summer 2019, the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control said “demand for recyclables still exceeds supply.” The agency is focused on contamination and engaged in multiple initiatives to help residents recycle correctly.

Effects

  • The Horry County Solid Waste Authority's MRF reports challenges with market dips and contamination. The facility’s residual rate has increased from 14% to 34% since accepting material from Charleston County. (March 2018)
  • Beaufort County has seen an expensive swing in recycling costs with Waste Management over the past year, but plans to continue offering service. (June 2018)
  • Pratt Industries has been sending certain commodities from Rock Hill—mainly glass and mixed plastics—to a landfill. Glass is dropped by multiple municipalities that send material to Sonoco's Charlotte MRF. (August 2018)
  • Lancaster County will no longer accept glass or plastic at any of its 13 drop-off centers. (January 2019)
  • Charleston County begins stockpiling recyclables at its landfill due to a lack of market options, with some material ultimately getting disposed. Now, much of North Charleston's curbside recycling is being landfilled. (March 2019)
  • Fort Mill cuts glass and mixed plastics from its program, ahead of a new contract with Waste Pro. WestRock notifies Anderson County it will no longer accept glass, even source-separated. Waste Management announces it will end subscription service for customers in Greenville County. (August 2019)

Solutions

  • The state's Commerce Department announces a new ad campaign to reiterate the economic benefits of recycling, with a particular focus on plastic bottles. (September 2018)
  • York County works out an agreement to begin accepting recyclables from Tega Cay. Glass and mixed plastics will still not be accepted. (March 2019)
  • Columbia and Lexington County have seen recycling costs rise significantly, but remain committed to their programs, a contrast with smaller local governments such as Pine Ridge that cut curbside service. (April 2019)
  • After continuing to face equipment-related and contamination setbacks that have resulted in the landfilling of recyclables, Charleston County finds a new destination for its recyclables – RePower South in Berkeley County. (NEW - October 2019)
  • North Augusta announces the end of its long-running “blue bag” program, citing costs, but says it will still sort out recyclables from mixed waste. (NEW - November 2019)

South Dakota

In June 2019, the state’s Department of Natural Resources reported that facilities were still accepting most materials, but service and tip fees had been increased. The DNR was continuing to provide technical assistance and funding in the form of loans and grants for equipment.

“Our recyclers definitely aren't receiving as good of market value for their collected recyclables. So, they are asking a little more for the recycling services throughout our state,” Nick Emme told Waste Dive.

Effects and Solutions

  • Rapid City is still finding a market for its material, though prices have declined. (July 2018)
  • Millennium Recycling in Sioux Falls is eyeing a potential price increase – particularly to cover losses on cardboard. (January 2019)
  • Millennium Recycling has still been faring better than many recycling companies because about 90% of its material is sold to Midwest buyers. (April 2019)
  • In Yankton, Millennium will stop accepting plastic bags due to a flooded market and high processing costs. (June 2019)

Tennessee

As of summer 2019, state officials in Tennessee reported the state has been “somewhat insulated from the effects of the commodity market changes due to the region’s strong access to mills and a strong industrial base that values recoverable materials.” The state does provide assistance to local recycling programs adapting to market changes in the form of grants, awarding more than $14 million “to promote local recycling and landfill diversion programs in communities across Tennessee” since 2017.

Effects

  • Dickson County, which operates 10 drop-off sites, raised concerns about its ability to recycle certain plastics in the near future. (December 2017)
  • Collierville has gone from earning about $25 to paying $80 per ton. Meanwhile, Republic Services has stopped accepting commercial recyclables for some customers in Memphis and may scale back collection frequency. (September 2018)
  • Republic Services is disposing of recyclables from the University of Memphis, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Memphis International Airport due to contamination and limited market options. (March 2019)
  • Johnson City reduces its list of accepted recyclables for curbside and drop-off programs, following the recent closure of key regional buyers. Sullivan County no longer accepts plastics at its drop-off facility, following the closure of Tri-City Waste Paper. (March 2019)
  • Washington County cuts glass and plastics from its five drop-off sites, in part due to the Tri-City closure. (June 2019)
  • WestRock notifies Knox County it will no longer accept glass from drop-off sites. The change applies to residents living outside of Knoxville. Waste Connections notifies Oak Ridge of the same change. (August 2019)

Solutions

  • Murfreesboro cuts back hours and availability for its recycling drop-off program. City staff recommended closing one center entirely, but council members asked for a compromise to keep it open on select days. (June 2018)
  • Hudgins Disposal will only collect recycling once a month in the Mount Juliet area and leave behind any contaminated carts. Higher processing fees at a Waste Management MRF were the main factor. Contamination has also been an issue in the Nashville area. (August 2018)
  • Nashville will expand the frequency of its curbside collection program with help from a state grant. Republic Services closes a drop-off site in Memphis, though the city will invest in its own site to maintain service. (February 2019)
  • Franklin expects to reduce contamination by a potential switch to cart-based collection, versus a current bag system, but will likely also cut mixed plastics from its accepted list at that time. Pricing has gotten tight in Williamson County overall, but programs are working through it. (April 2019)
  • In western Tennessee, a grant enables the purchase of new equipment and the expansion of recycling in Henderson, Adamsville, and Lexington. (June 2019)
  • Collierville makes a new arrangement with the West Tennessee Recycling Hub, following cost increases with a Republic Services MRF in Memphis, but will have to cut glass from its program. (August 2019)
  • Nashville bans all plastic takeout containers from its curbside program, citing confusion among consumers about which types are acceptable, in an effort to reduce contamination. (September 2019)

Texas

In November 2017, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said international market restrictions could be a good opportunity to develop local markets. Eventually, changes manifested in the form of terminated programs and reductions in accepted materials.

In July 2018, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling changed its mission to emphasize partnership around domestic solutions "in light of the recent 'National Sword' import bans." The organization has since developed and passed legislation that will “produce a state-level end market development plan for the Texas recycling industry,” according to Jordan Fengel, STAR’s executive director, in summer 2019.

Effects

  • China's effects on commodity markets are cited by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as one reason to finalize a new long-term recycling contract with FCC Environmental Services. (January 2018)
  • El Paso emerges as one of the most affected municipalities in Texas with Friedman Recycling asking for a $40 per ton cost increase in a contract that technically runs through 2030. (March 2018)
  • As Waste Management steps up quality enforcement, local recycling could be in danger due to high contamination rates. Recycling costs are spiking throughout northern Texas. Fort Worth earned $999,000 from its program last year, but anticipates paying $465,000 in 2018 and could pay nearly $1.7 million in 2019. (June 2018)
  • Kilgore prepares to raise rates due to a $20,000 spike in monthly processing costs for Republic Services, though this will still be less expensive than landfilling. Oak Ridge North approves a rate increase with Waste Management that involves dropping glass. (July 2018)
  • Four neighborhoods in Harris County's Municipal Utility District 119 will lose all curbside recycling service following rising costs with Republic. (August 2018)
  • Houston reports spending close to $900,000 on recycling over the past six months. The city maintains these costs will drop when it switches from current processor Waste Management to FCC. (December 2018)
  • Midwestern State University decides to end its recycling program with Waste Connections due to rising costs. The company has also curtailed commercial recycling service in the broader Texoma region. (January 2019)
  • Port Neches ends its drop-off recycling program due to ongoing contamination and rising costs. (March 2019)
  • Nacogdoches is expected to temporarily suspend recycling for some plastic and paper due to market conditions. (April 2019)
  • Midlands scales back to a limited number of drop-off sites following rising costs with processor Butts Recycling. (May 2019)
  • Olmos Park has been told to stop recycling glass, metal cans and plastics except for bottles. Alamo Heights cut glass. Terrell Hills cuts mixed paper and glass. All municipalities are serviced by Waste Management. (June 2019)
  • Beaumont will lose opt-in curbside service, as well as drop-off access, following a facility closure by Waste Management. Nederland will close its drop-off center following a decision made by Waste Management. Abilene, serviced by a different company, cuts plastics and glass from its accepted drop-off list. (July 2019)
  • Both West University Place and Bellaire report notable cost increases for their recycling programs since global market changes. (August 2019)
  • Katy cuts glass from its curbside program, citing broader market challenges. (September 2019)

Solutions

  • The San Antonio City Council doubles an existing recycling contamination fee to $50 per household, noting diapers are a particular issue. (March 2018)
  • Rather than renegotiate contract terms with Friedman, El Paso will step up its education efforts. The city launches a pilot curbside inspection program across 10,000 households, hoping to cut contamination rates in half. (May 2018)
  • After months of high-profile debate, San Angelo agrees to a contract amendment with Republic that won’t change pricing for residents, but will result in the removal of mixed paper and mixed plastics. This came after Butts Recycling stopped taking material from the city’s program. (December 2018)
  • Denton is starting a cart-tagging inspection program to improve quality. (February 2019)
  • Houston resumes curbside recycling of glass for the first time in three years with the opening of a new MRF operated by FCC. (April 2019)
  • Denton learns that Pratt has been disposing of mixed plastics and glass for a period of months, with limited communication, but has now found new markets. The Texas legislature passes a bill to study the state’s current recycling economy and explore opportunities for local market development. (May 2019)
  • Fort Worth reports ongoing curbside inspection efforts to improve material quality, following an annual net loss of more than $1 million through its contract with Republic. (September 2019)

Utah

After reporting minimal effects in 2017, Utah now appears to be feeling many of the same issues as its regional neighbors as municipalities debate whether programs should be continued in spite of increased costs. The state’s Department of Environmental Quality reported in summer 2019 that commodity market changes had caused a surplus of recyclables in storage, which the agency was allowing facilities to dispose of as needed.

Effects

  • About half of Draper's recyclables have been landfilled in recent months due to weather and market conditions. (March 2019)
  • Cache County residents can no longer recycle plastics #3-7, due to market conditions. (May 2019)
  • Moab cuts down the list of items at its drop-off center, eliminating mixed paper and multiple types of plastic. (June 2018)
  • The Weber County School District will remove most recycling bins due to rising costs, though some schools will continue recycling fiber through private contracts. (August 2018)
  • Cache County stops accepting mixed plastics #3-7 in its curbside program. Logan City removes free cardboard drop-off locations from around the region due to poor market conditions. (Summer 2019)
  • The majority of municipalities that own and operate the Trans-Jordan Landfill agree to restrict curbside recycling –to cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs, and metal containers – following cost pressures. (NEW - October 2019)

Solutions

  • In the Salt Lake Valley, the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District's board decides to continue service despite a $900,000 increase for the year based on higher processing costs. (June 2018)
  • As prices at the Recycled Earth MRF increased, North Ogden considers whether the economics still work for its curbside program, ultimately deciding to continue the service. New measures such as pulling service for repeat contamination offenders have been successful. (April-July 2018)
  • ACE Recycling and Disposal isn't taking any plastic food containers and is closely inspecting carts in areas such as West Valley City. (July 2018)
  • Salt Lake City’s waste and recycling division withholds any rate increases for the near future in favor of behavioral education to drive down contamination. (November 2018)
  • Ogden temporarily suspends its recycling program due to a 47% market-related increase in tip fees from local processor Recycled Earth, but reinstates the program as negotiations continued. South Ogden is reportedly in the midst of a similar conversation about the future of its program. (April 2019)
  • Rocky Mountain Recycling claims force majeure to end its contract with Washington County due to market issues. The county temporarily landfills material, before later signing a new deal with Republic Services. (Summer 2019)

Vermont

Initial market effects were slower to show up in Vermont as of 2017. The state has now encountered many of the same issues as its New England neighbors, though with less severe outcomes. The Department of Environmental Conservation reports MRF tip fees are generally up, as of summer 2019, “impacting haulers, transfer stations, and customers.”

Vermont’s biggest issue has been mixed paper. State officials were supportive of 2018 legislation allowing for temporary disposal of the material, but said no waiver requests were received ahead of a July 2019 expiration date.

Effects

  • The Chittenden Solid Waste District increases its MRF tipping fees to $25 per ton for in-district haulers and $50 for all others. Rates are expected to climb again. (May 2018)
  • Recycling costs are reportedly rising throughout the state. The Chittenden Solid Waste District will begin charging $55 per ton in September. Casella's Rutland MRF has also raised rates and the Northwest Vermont Solid Waste Management district is doing the same. (July 2018)
  • Branford is among the latest to set new or higher recycling drop-off fees at transfer stations around the state. (September 2018)
  • TAM Waste sells its hauling, recycling and composting assets to Casella Waste Systems. The owner cites a “recycling and disposal crisis,” which his small company isn’t equipped to deal with, as a primary reason. (June 2019)

Solutions

  • Gov. Phil Scott signs a bill allowing the state's Agency of Natural Resources to issue mixed paper disposal waivers. Lobbying by companies such as Casella Waste Systems, which have reported worthless mixed paper markets, was said to be a factor. The new language also updates separation requirements for MRF residuals and allowable fees for recycling service. (June 2018)
  • The Northeast Kingdom Waste Management District is not charging more yet, because it claims to be having better luck with markets due to a source-separated system. (September 2018)
  • The Agency of Natural Resources launches a new "Recycle Like You Live Here" education campaign to focus on common contaminants. After working with Casella and the Chittenden Solid Waste District, the agency decides to focus on plastic bags, batteries and electronics, food-contaminated recyclables, and scrap metal. (November 2018)
  • Gov. Phil Scott signs S.113, a law banning multiple plastic items. It also creates a working group that could lay the groundwork for an extended producer responsibility system some believe is key to reshaping the economics of recycling. (June 2019)

Virginia

Effects in Virginia were relatively minor at first, but worsened in 2018. In August 2018, the Virginia Recycling Association urged people to view this as a "reality check for product manufacturers to improve their packaging, for the recycling industry to improve their sorting technology, for everyone who works with the public to improve recycling information and for consumers to reduce their waste and recycle responsibly."

In summer 2019, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) told Waste Dive that the agency was aware of the changes and working with stakeholders in the region “to evaluate the impact on recycling programs in Virginia.” A November 2019 DEQ report described international market changes as having “a fundamental impact on recycling, including recycling in Virginia.”

Effects

Solutions

  • TFC Recycling exercises an opt-out clause in its contract with Norfolk. The city will continue collections, release a new RFP and send material to a local WTE facility if no other processor is arranged. Canadian company Cascades acquires the idled White Birch paper mill and plans to invest up to $300 million on an upgrade that will be completed by 2021. (July 2018)
  • After initially declining to renew its contract with Hampton, TFC Recycling has continued taking the city's material through negotiations. The Hampton City Council recently approved using $600,000 to cover higher costs through FY19. (October 2018)
  • Municipalities that contract with the Virginia Peninsula Public Service Authority, such as Williamsburg and James City, will see cost increases due partly to a processing switch to Tidewater Fibre. Rockingham County residents, however, continue to recycle at container sites. (January 2019)
  • Contrary to national trends, a new source-separated recycling drop-off program in Page County has been turning higher and higher profits. (March 2019)
  • Galax stops accepting plastics at its recycling center, but will now accept tin and aluminum. Richmond will not make changes to its collection program for the time being, but may look to cut down on single-use plastics via a resolution. (April 2019)
  • After glass collected from Alexandria residents was being landfilled, new drop-off options will help mitigate this and ensure local uses for the material. (May 2019)
  • Roanoke will see a nearly 80% price hike to continue recycling, although city residents will not feel the increase yet. Stevens City’s program will continue for another year, following a contract extension with American Disposal Services. (June 2019)
  • Southern Scrap rejects Winchester’s glass and plastics, but the city will continue its curbside recycling program. Frederick County negotiates a deal with Southern Scrap to cut plastic through Dec. 31, while also establishing a separate contract switching to Apple Valley Waste for curbside service in 2020. The University of Virginia will continue its plastics recycling program, bucking trends. (July 2019)
  • Halifax County reactivates its drop-off recycling program with success after TFC expressed concerns in the summer about contamination. Arlington may add more glass recycling stations after county officials initially advised residents to throw it away. (September 2019)
  • Looking for ways to mitigate glass contamination, Loudon County may move to separate bins for the material. (NEW - October 2019)

Washington

The state's Department of Ecology said China's policies were "beginning to create a major disruption" as early as the fall of 2017, and warned that slower processing rates could lead to disposal. The agency asked local governments to avoid permanent changes.

In April 2018, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) told Waste Dive it was now allowing companies to request rate changes more frequently than in the past and expected all 53 regulated haulers to make a request if they hadn’t already. Ecology later released new guidance on commingled programs in July, including a template for accepted material lists.

In summer 2019, Ecology highlighted recently passed legislation which will facilitate the creation of domestic markets and also create state and local contamination reduction plans. The agency continues to convene with stakeholders, and has also launched a statewide advertising campaign on multiple platforms to help raise awareness about recycling correctly.

Effects

Solutions

  • King County will form a special recycling task force including representation from the county, the UTC, Recology, Republic, Waste Management and multiple local municipalities. (April 2018)
  • Whatcom County reports faring better than others, with a 1% contamination rate, because it never made the switch to single-stream. (July 2018)
  • Marysville launches a new contamination program funded by a $30,000 state grant and $10,000 of its own. This will entail working with Waste Management to identify target areas and conducting door-to-door education. (September 2018)
  • The King County Solid Waste Division launches a new "Recycle Right" campaign to help boost its capture rate and cut down on contamination. (October 2018)
  • Seattle is reportedly sending some of its plastic to a processing facility in British Columbia, which has proven cost-effective for the city. (March 2019)
  • Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill, backed by Ecology, to create a market development incubator. The bill also requires the creation of new contamination reduction plans statewide. (April 2019)
  • Olympia reports positive results from a cart inspection program, funded by Ecology, but is also being asked by its service providers to cut glass. (September 2019)

West Virginia

Effects and Solutions

  • Mercer County Solid Waste Authority is spending an estimated $100,000 per year to run a drop-off program at its landfill. Costs may soon become too high due to declining revenues from commodities and tip fees. (September 2018)
  • Ohio County Solid Waste Authority shuts down two drop-off sites serviced by Republic Services due to excess contamination. (September 2018)
  • The Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste District tells residents drop-off service at 38 sites may not be available until at least January after Republic chose not to bid. (October 2018)
  • The Raleigh County Solid Waste Authority removes drop-off bins due to ongoing contamination issues. (November 2018)
  • The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority is no longer accepting rigid plastics at drop-off sites. The county is still accepting standard plastics #1-7, following a new baling and processing arrangement. (July 2019)

Wisconsin

According to Wisconsin’ Department of Natural Resources, as of summer 2019, lower commodity prices and increased processing costs to meet higher quality standards have strained systems in the state. However, the agency hadn’t received any disposal requests for material required to be recycled under state law. The DNR has confirmed to stakeholders that mixed plastics (#3-7) can legally be disposed, even if the material has been sorted and baled.

The agency has also convened stakeholder meetings, including a MRF operator session it may start hosting annually, and recently conducted a survey about common contaminants. DNR’s goal is to create resources about problem items that can be used to improve public education.

Effects

  • Madison is among the very first U.S. municipalities to alter its recycling program based on China's policies by cutting rigid plastics from drop-off sites. (September 2017)
  • Waste Management doubles down on contamination standards with Milwaukee, accepting fewer plastics. (June 2018)
  • Milwaukee and nearby Waukesha County municipalities are likely to pay more to process recycling this year. After a major revenue drop in 2018, Milwaukee projects recycling costs will rise by another $457,000. (April-May 2019)
  • La Crosse will no longer accept plastics #3, 6 or 7 after receiving feedback from service provider Harter’s Green Circle Recycling. The company was already sending this material to a local waste-to-energy facility. (August 2018)
  • The Tri-County Recycling MRF in Outagamie County has seen revenues decrease by $2.5 million over the past year due to market conditions. (February 2019)
  • Racine has reportedly agreed to a mid-term contract amendment with Johns Disposal and the company is seeking similar relief from other local municipalities. Racine itself saw a $75,000 decline in commodity revenue sharing in 2018. (August 2019)

Solutions

  • Green Bay Packaging Inc. will build a $500 million paper mill that will source 100% recycled content – including OCC and mixed paper. This will be the state's first new paper mill in more than 30 years. (June 2018)
  • The Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin launch a "Recycle Right" education campaign. A recent survey by the organization found 90% of state MRF operators have been significantly affected by market shifts and all of those facilities reported up to a 60% drop in revenue. (June 2018)
  • Columbia County reportedly processed more volume in 2018, but earned less money for it. Officials considered investments in new MRF technology to address this, and the county's solid waste board approved plans to seek proposals for an upgrade that could cost an estimated $1.7 million. (January-March 2019)
  • Despite continued challenges with commodity pricing, Milwaukee will consider increasing the frequency of recycling pickups with a new grant. (June 2019)

Wyoming

In June 2019, the Department of Environmental Quality reported recycling was still a challenge throughout the state.

Although, according to program manager Craig McComie, “entities that charge fees for collection of materials are faring better than voluntary programs or programs that are heavily dependent on the sale of commodities to remain afloat.” Some programs have cut back on accepted commodities, while others are landfilling “hard to recycle” materials (e.g. glass, some plastics, and e-waste) until market conditions improve.

Effects

  • The city of Sheridan was stockpiling mixed plastics with the hope it could move them when markets improve. So far, the city and service provider County Trash have been telling residents to continue business as usual. (April 2018)
  • WYCO Recycling announces it will no longer accept glass for recycling, effectively cutting any options for the Cheyenne area. (December 2018)
  • Teton County officials are looking at a potential rate increase for drop-off service to offset tough recycling markets. The Solid Waste Department has been stockpiling paper and plastics, but also had a paper load rejected due to moisture from being stored outside. (June 2018)
  • The Cheyenne City Council votes to approve a contract change with WYCO Recycling that will double tip fees to $80 per ton, minimum monthly payments to $20,000 and the annual cap to $400,000. (March 2019)
  • Douglas reveals it actually suspended curbside recycling operations months ago, following a change with Wyco Recycling. The city was waiting to see if any new options might be available, but has yet to find any. (NEW - November 2019)

Solutions

  • Laramie has been paying more for its recycling program, which involves shipping bales to Waste Management in Denver, but this is still considered more cost-effective than landfilling. Jackson's program is still profitable because it remains source-separated. (January 2019)
  • Laramie’s program continues to be viable without price hikes, because contamination rates are only around 12% and current rates are enough to offset fees charged by Waste Management. (March 2019)
  • Green River had been landfilling recyclables due to a transfer station closure, but is exploring alternative options. (June 2019)