Wash your Trash! Is recycling working?

By Andy May

The recycling movement started in the 1970s and it has been very popular in Western countries. Participation varies with location, but in our small community of The Woodlands, Texas, over 90% participate in our curbside recycling program. However, the value of recycled materials has fallen dramatically in recent years because far too much unrecyclable material is put in the bins by the public and much of what is recyclable is contaminated with water, food, or other contaminates that make the “good” stuff unusable. Waste disposal companies often charge “contamination fees.” In addition to the contamination problem, the value of recyclables is going down and cost to process them into a usable form is going up. Processing, that is cleaning and sorting a load of recyclable material, has gone from earning a community $25/ton to costing the community $70/ton or more in many areas. In 2015 recycling was a revenue generator for Houston and other cities in the area. Bellaire, for example, generated $12,000 in 2015 from curbside recycling, but in 2017, they lost over $80,000 for the same program.

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