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Recycling Task Force

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Regional Task Force Tackles Recycling Issues

ST. LOUIS, MO (August 20, 2018) - Recycling markets may be changing, but recycling is not going away. That’s the message that a collaboration of recycling leaders in the St. Louis Region wants the public, municipal governments, and businesses to understand in light of recent market forces that have made recycling less profitable for processors, at times causing them to operate at a loss. This task force’s work is especially critical now, following an August announcement from recycling processor Resource Management that it will soon stop accepting mixed residential recyclables from several local municipalities with which it contracts.

“We want to reassure people that we have a strong team of partners, including recycling companies, that are actively working towards solutions to keep recycling from being disrupted in the St. Louis region,” said Dave Berger, task force member and director of the St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District. “Our region has a diversity of recycling companies, so we’re optimistic that the recent loss of processing capacity from Resource Management will be overcome, and that our local recycling industry will remain strong.”

Berger said that the recycling “stream” has become contaminated with unaccepted items including plastic bags, general trash, and foods and liquids left in recyclable containers. This contamination has led international markets to reject many U.S. recyclables, driving down prices and creating uncertainty. Contamination occurs often in single stream recycling, where a mix of different types of recyclables are all placed in one bin. “If bottles and containers are not empty and rinsed, or if pizza is stuck on a pizza box, the rest of the paper in that bin can become contaminated and unusable for recycling,” he said.

Jean Ponzi, Solid Waste District board member and regional recycling educator, adds, "Putting materials in your recycling bin that are not accepted - like plastic bags, garden hoses and holiday lights - causes problems. Bags in particular are an issue as they ruin an otherwise good bale of paper and jam up recycling equipment. Contamination is an issue we really need to address, not only in St. Louis but also nationwide,” she said.

“We’re encouraging people to think: ‘empty, rinsed and dry’ before they toss items into the recycling bin,” Ponzi said. “We’re also reminding residents to put used plastic bags in the grocery store recycling bin, not in their curbside recycling bin or cart.”

The regional task force has reached out to municipalities affected by the Resource Management decision and will keep them apprised as progress is being made on developing solutions to keep curbside recycling going throughout the region. The group is also planning a community forum in the near future to address residents’ and other stakeholders’ concerns. Residents are encouraged to learn more about what they recycle in their curbside bin by visiting: www.stlcityrecycles.com. The website serves St. Louis City residents, however the information about what can be recycled curbside applies to residents throughout the region.

The task force is part of a larger group of stakeholders and recycling advocates, known as the OneSTL Materials and Recycling Working Group, which includes the following entities: East-West Gateway Council of Governments, St. Louis-Jefferson Solid Waste Management District, City of St. Louis, Jefferson County, Madison County, St. Charles County, St. Louis County, University City, Brightside St. Louis, EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden, Republic Services, Resource Management, St. Louis Compost, St. Louis Earth Day, St. Louis Green Dining Alliance, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Washington University.

Editor’s Note: See also “RECYCLING FACT SHEET” provided as a separate attachment.