The high cost of recycling first prompted the end of a long-standing county-wide program and now has at least one local waste-hauler threatening to follow suit.
“We’re not alone in this situation. It’s both national and global,” said Steve Rypkema, director of the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department.
However, he said, there is light at the end of the tunnel and solutions can be found to aid a turn-around.
“The recycling market will get better,” he said.
Rypkema’s department trashed a recycling program, implemented in 1994, earlier this year, and a representative of Moring Disposal Inc., Forreston, told the Polo City Council on Aug. 5 that his company may discontinue collection of recyclable items.
In both cases, decisions are influenced by skyrocketing container hauling costs, contamination in the recycling stream, U.S. trade tariffs, and the Chinese ban on importing U.S. recyclables.
Rypkema said it’s a case of simple economics. The demand for recyclables has greatly dwindled, driving up the cost to get rid of them — if you can find a place that will take them.
After years of working to build awareness of the importance of recycling to protect the environment, Rypkema announced last January that recycling stations in Byron, Oregon, Forreston, Monroe Center, and Rochelle would close in May.
That meant the removal of large drop-off bins in those communities.
The only community unaffected was Polo, and that was because the drop-off bin there was Moring’s.
The large drop-off bins were mostly used by rural residents, Rypkema said, because village and cities still have curbside recycling through their waste hauler.
“City people were lucky,” he said.
But all that may be about to change.
Steve Moring told Polo officials that weekly pick-up of recyclables, along with the drop-off bin at the corner of Locust Street and Division Avenue, may be discontinued.
Moring said his company’s plan is to dispose of recyclables with the regular garbage.
Rypkema said many county residents have made recycling a habit, and he believes alternatives should be pursued.
“We stopped our program because our costs increased 150 percent, and we had no way to charge the customers,” he said. “Options might be temporary [garbage] rate increases or reducing the number of items taken.”
Some recyclables are more marketable than others, he said, and waste haulers may want to take only those, at least until the situation improves.
“The haulers need to do their part and absorb some of the cost,” he said. “I believe the cost will increase for consumers but then when it gets better, those costs should then be reduced.”
A longterm solution, in light of the loss of the Chinese market, would be to develop facilities in this country to process the recyclables into other products.
“That is happening, but it isn’t happening fast enough to absorb all the products that are stock-piled,” he said. “Because we depended so much on China, we no longer have facilities here.”
New facilities are coming online, he said, but it will take time for them to handle the volume.
Most of those facilities are on the West Coast, he said, and they are needed throughout the nation.
Required sorting of recyclables at home before putting them out might also help.
“Single stream recycling has come back to haunt us,” Rypkema said.
When recycling was new, customers were required to sort items by category. Metal, glass, plastics, and paper were kept separate when put in the bins or set out for the garbage man.
Putting everything mingled in the same container led to more contamination and that was part of China’s complaint, Rypkema said.
If a container is not adequately washed before being discarded, it may spill its contents onto other items. If the other items are paper or cardboard, they are ruined as far as recycling is concerned.
For more information on how to recycle correctly and drop-off options, call the solid waste management department at 815-732-4050 or visit www.oglecounty.org, choose Department and click on Solid Waste.