Council discusses recycling problems

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


No action was taken during Tuesday evening?s Washington City Council meeting, but the council discussed a major downturn in recycling markets that is impacting the operators of the joint city/county recycling center.

Lynn Whaley, of WEMIGA Waste Inc., which operates the center, said that pricing concerns had arisen based on the closing of the Chinese market for certain recyclables. He said it may be a while before new markets are developed. Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson commented that 100 percent of recyclables on the west coast had been going to China to be recycled and now are not. Hinson said the situation was due to the Chinese internal policy and it is having ripple effects in recycling markets.

?We have never seen a change like this in the United States where the market has went below zero,? Whaley said. ?It is one thing for it be zero, then to turn around and have to pay to get rid of it.?

He said that the recycling community had begun seeing changes in fall 2017. By March, he said, China shut down receiving material to recycle. Whaley said this is a nationwide issue.

The materials impacted are paper and plastics. Whaley said there are places that are just putting the recyclables in a landfill.

?I told Brent we needed to figure out what to do,? Whaley said. ?I personally can?t pay to get rid of the city?s materials. It is one thing to make nothing but it is another to have to pay to get rid of it.?

Whaley said he is looking for temporary assistance in disposing of the items. The estimated cost for getting rid of the materials for the city is about $1,200 per month. He has also approached the county with the issue.

In regards to Whaley?s comment that it would cost less to put the materials in a landfill, council member Steve Gault said that?s where the items should be sent.

Whaley commented that the situation has only just happened and he wants to see if a new market opens before deciding to take the materials to the landfill.

?The recycling market is pretty cyclical and there are ups and downs,? Hinson said. ?This is a pretty major market shock and it is just a matter of how long it will last.?