Americans have recycled for decades, but curbside pickup programs across the nation are crumbling. Philadelphia is now burning more than half of its recycled materials, a small Florida city, Deltona, has suspended its recycling program, and several Pennsylvania cities are being forced to limit what residents can recycle.
Why are recycling programs in danger?
The cost of recycling is climbing – quickly. For many cities, it’s cheaper to send recycling to the landfill than it is to recycle. What’s driving the costs? There are limited markets for recyclables right now.
Years ago, the U.S. shipped most of its recyclables to China, but that ended in 2018 after the country noticed too much trash mixed in the recyclables. Everything from greasy pizza boxes, jars laced with food scraps, and plastic containers that weren’t recyclable at all, made it difficult for China to actually repurpose the material. So, the country shut its doors to American recycling. As a result, the U.S. has a limited number of vendors that will buy recyclables, which has drastically inflated costs.
How are cities responding?
Every city is different. In Newport Township in Pennsylvania, residents are being asked not to toss glass in the recycling bin anymore to save on costs. It costs the town $65 per ton to haul away recyclables with glass and just $25 per ton to haul it away without glass.
Other cities, like Kingston, a neighbor of Newport Township, are forced to pass the cost on to taxpayers. The city is now charging residential units a $30 recycling fee, something that has never been done in the history of Kingston’s recycling program.
Deltona, a Florida city north of Orlando, has suspended its recycling program indefinitely due to high costs. By ending its curbside recycling pickup, the city will save an estimated $715,000 a year.
Recycling isn’t a viable option anymore
Recycling is good in theory. When you toss a soda bottle into the recycling bin you assume it will be repurposed into new things, but it’s not as simple as that.
For starters, only about 32% of Americans recycle.
Even when people do recycle, there’s no guarantee that what’s put in the recycling bin is actually recycled. Once recyclables are sold, the buyer decides what’s reused. What’s left over goes into the landfill.
Add to that the rising costs for cities to haul recyclables away and you can see why recycling programs are failing from coast to coast.
There’s another solution
Recycling is an outdated approach to the world’s mounting garbage problem. To curb waste, a better solution is refillable technology. Rather than trying to recycle your laundry detergent bottle and hoping it’s actually repurposed, why not buy one bottle of detergent and refill the bottle as needed at your local retailer?
Refill technology like this exists. Retailers can set up a simple kiosk and give consumers a chance to refill a variety of household goods like shampoo, soap, and cleaning products. Since the consumer reuses the same bottle, there’s no need to recycle it.
Would you refill bottles of your favorite products? If so, tell retailers that you’re ready for refill technology. Sign the petition below.