Changes could be coming to Gilbert’s curbside recycling program as the town joins other Valley municipalities wrestling with the mounting costs of diverting trash from landfills.
The town recently ended a two-week survey quizzing residents on their recycling habits such as how often they put out their blue barrel, what do they do with their plastic bags and would they still recycle if they had to pay an additional $2 or less for the program.
“The survey results will provide us a direction the town may consider to address the volatile recycling market,” Town spokeswoman Jennifer Harrison said. “The China ban on recycling contamination has affected all municipal recycling programs nationwide.”
She said 5,160 residents participated in the online survey with the results to be unveiled at the Town Council retreat on Oct. 24.
China, the largest importer of recyclables in the world, last year stopped taking most U.S. junk – including most plastics and mixed paper. The trade war has further exacerbated the recycling crunch after Beijing slapped increased tariffs on recyclables.
As a result, U.S. cities are tossing out their recycling programs or limiting what they will take after what had been a revenue-producing activity turns to an increasingly bigger expense.
Here in the Valley, Surprise in August announced it was suspending its recycling program, citing soaring operation recycling costs and plunging commodity prices. Earlier in the year, Casa Grande also temporarily halted its program while Sierra Vista in June ended its curbside pickup program and directed residents to a recycling facility instead.
Mesa is restricting items it collects for recycling such as yogurt containers and peanut butter jars and closed three bulk recycling centers.
Chandler for now has no plans to change its program as it was still earning some revenue from curbside pick-ups to offset its processing fees to recycling companies, according to Traci Conway, city recycling manager.
That said, Conway added, next year could be a different story.
Although Chandler has money set aside to cover the program’s shortfall, it will be up to the City Council to decide when the tipping point is to stop subsidizing recycling, according to Conway.
In Gilbert, the recycling program is now costing the town, according to Harrison.
In fiscal year 2018, Gilbert received $342,000 to sustain the recycling program but in fiscal year 2019, the program cost the town $271,000, she said.
Residential recycle tonnages in Gilbert have remained steady for the most part – 20,757 tons in calendar year 2017; 20,838 in 2017 and 14,356 so far this year, according to Harrison.
The survey also included questions on the town’s bulk trash program as officials look to help reduce unsightly bulk trash in neighborhoods by exploring new pickup methods.
Questions included how often residents used bulk pick-up, what bulk collection pick-up method they preferred and if they have ever hauled material themselves to a transfer station.
Resident Chris Ruckstuhl for one wants to see changes in the program.
“Bulk trash should be picked up at least every two to three weeks, not five to six weeks,” he wrote on a social media site. The “front of a lot of homes always look terrible because of waiting for bulk pick up. I know it shouldn’t be put out until pick up (but) a lot of people have it out for weeks.”
GSN staff writer Kevin Reagan contributed to the story.