For now, Union residents don’t have to change their recycling habits.
After the St. Louis-based Resource Management announced it would no longer accept single-stream recycling at the end of October, communities in the region have been altering their recycling programs.
In Union nothing has changed and likely won’t until next summer.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the city contracts its recycling program with Solid Waste Solution. So far he has not heard from them about any changes to the way things are run.
He explained China, traditionally a major purchaser of recycled materials, has slowed down in recent months.
Rost said he was unsure if the slowdown was trade-related or simply a matter of supply and demand. Other reports said China is cracking down on what it accepts and imposing stricter policies.
No matter the reason, China isn’t in the market like it once was.
The result has left some cities scrambling to find a place to dump their recycling. Late last month the city of Washington announced it was switching gears and not moving forward with plans to do single-stream recycling.
The city had purchased a new truck and was making plans to go single-stream with its recycling. Single-stream allows curbside pickup without the materials being sorted.
Those plans changed when the city couldn’t find anyone to take the materials.
Other communities also have announced a switch in their program. In Union, residents can continue to do single stream recycling as normal, Rost said.
The program is popular in Union, he said. The city has single stream bins behind city hall and they are “always full,” Rost said.
“They’re over full every week,” he said.
Any changes to the recycling program are likely to come next summer when its contract with Solid Waste Solutions expires.
Rost said the city will begin researching in the spring of 2019 to prepare for the new contract. He is anticipating something will be different.
“We’re looking to put it out to bid probably early spring or next summer,” he said. “If there’s changes, that’s when I expect them — sometime around August.”
What is currently accepted curbside could change. Rost said the fees customers pay also could change.
“We could have to change the way we recycle or it could result in a fee increase to the customers,” he said.
Even with the possible changes rates, Rost said he doesn’t expect the city to have to suspend its operations. The city has long paid to recycle, but it’s usually at a much cheaper rate than hauling to a landfill.
If the city stopped recycling, that waste would be shipped to a landfill. As long as recycling is more affordable than a landfill, he said the city would likely consider the recycling program.
“We’ve had discussions with our contractor about the issues they’re experiencing,” Rost said. “Their position is that it’s cheaper, they pay less per ton, to get rid of the recyclables. They’re still committed to recycling. If they have to take it to the Earth City recycling center, they may have to pay to get rid of it, but they pay less than to put it in the landfill.”
Rost said the city should know more about the future of its recycling program next week. He said he’ll be attending the East Central Solid Waste District meeting where the topic of recycling is on the agenda.