Recycling Today

recycling bales cropped

The City is mandated by NC State Law to collect and recycle aluminum cans, newspaper, office paper, and recyclable glass and plastic bottles. Furthermore, due to statewide landfill bans, when there are banned materials such as recyclables in City trash trucks, the City is subject to double tipping fees if cited by the County landfill. 

The recycling industry has changed drastically in the last four years. The City of Burlington’s recycling contract with the contractor GFL expires this year and as expected, the newly negotiated rate has increased considerably. Beginning on July 1, 2022, recycling pick-up will be $6.90/month with the combined total for recycling and garbage pick-up at $13.97/month. 

There are many reasons for the fee increase. Some considerations such as the tight labor market and rising fuel costs are certainly factors, but the two primary reasons for the rate jump are changes in the aftermarket for recyclable plastic and the exceptionally favorable contract for recycling services the City of Burlington negotiated in 2012. 

Before 2018, 60% of recyclable materials collected in the U.S. were shipped to China to be recycled into new products. Historically, China accepted up to 5% non-recyclable contaminants (garbage or food waste) in bales of recyclable materials. Since 2018, the Chinese government has instituted a new policy which severely restricts the import of recyclable plastics and paper. China now only accepts bales containing less than 1% contamination and will return any shipments that fail to meet that standard. The result to the recycling industry in the US is substantially higher costs to recycle plastic and paper. 

As for the previous City of Burlington recycling contract, when the contract was bid out in 2012, GFL bid significantly less than other providers. Whether or not the company correctly estimated costs is up for debate, but GFL honored the contract and has provided top notch service to our residences for the past 10 years. Though the bid they submitted for the new contract requires rate hikes, it was also the lowest bid and the City of Burlington is pleased to continue working with GFL. The new contract locks in rates for five years with fee increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. 

Other municipalities around the country are facing the same challenging Recycling market and will experience similar rate increases as they renegotiate recycling contracts. If you’d like to find out what you can do to help keep more recyclable material out of landfills, please check out Recycle Right NC for more information.

 For more information about changes in the recycling industry, read this Bloomberg article about the effects on municipalities or listen to this episode of the 99% Invisible Podcast.