A City of Ketchikan Solid Waste Department official says the city’s landfill facility will not accept mixed paper as a recyclable material, effective July 1, because there isn’t a reliable buyer to sell it to.
The city’s recycler company, Republic Services, directed the city in March not to ship out mixed paper because of new, tight regulations implemented by the Chinese government, Solid Waste Superintendent Lenny Neeley said.
As of the beginning of the year, China is only accepting mixed recyclables as long as over 99 percent of each shipment is not contaminated with other trash. China is historically a large buyer of mixed recyclables from around the world.
“Recycling is a tough market. But I’ve never seen something where a lot of this material is going to China, and they’ve totally banned it,” Neeley said. “It’s not just upset the market in North America, but it’s upset the world market.”
Despite that, the Ketchikan landfill facility continued to accept mixed paper as a recyclable because Neeley thought new buyers for mixed paper would emerge over the next few months. But that is not the case.
“Like us with a lot of other communities, we’re just at that point with the reality in that if they’re not going to take it, there’s not a whole lot we can do at that point. We’ll just have to wait to see if there’s a long-term strategy for materials, and I think there will be soon. The question is how soon.”
The city landfill shipped out more than 252 tons of mixed paper in 2017, making about $28,000 in profit, Neeley said.
Neeley recommends composting the mixed paper or burning it in a fireplace if possible. Materials such as cardboard, aluminum, used oil and batteries are still accepted. Recycling containers at the A&P parking lot will be moved to a drop center at the landfill to help avoid contamination of recyclables. The collection route for mixed paper will also be ended until further notice.
City Council plans to discuss these changes to the recycling program at their meeting on Thursday.