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Havasu recycling efforts now focused on quality over quantity

December 26, 2018

Stricter limitations in China’s import of recyclable waste this summer are beginning to have an impact on Lake Havasu City’s recycling program.

For 30 years, China once accepted about a third of America’s recyclable waste. That changed this summer when the Asian superpower set higher limitations on what kinds of recyclables would be imported. While the impact of that decision wasn’t immediately felt in Havasu, Republic Services is now setting stricter limitations of its own.

“Late last year, China realized it was importing a lot of American trash,” said Republic Services General Manager Matt Kross. “When your largest buyer goes away, it kills the recycling market. All of that recyclable waste that would have gone to China is now handled by American recycling facilities.”

Republic Services expanded its own recycling program this February, and according to Kross, much of what Havasu residents put in their recycling bins are either not recyclable, or are contaminated with organic material such as food.

“There’s a big push not toward volume, but toward how clean recyclable materials can be,” Kross said. “Under the old program, we were recycling about 100 tons of trash per month. Now we’re processing 500 tons per month. We’re recycling five times the volume of trash, and the community is doing great. Now they have to make sure their recyclables are clean, or there’s the risk of those items being landfilled.”

According to Kross, the best advice he can give to Havasu residents is to follow the instructions on their recycled waste bins.

“We don’t want any non-recyclable items to contaminate what could be recycled,” Kross said. “When in doubt, throw it out. What we’d like to do is have people examine their recyclables. Make sure they’re empty, clean and dry, and that will ensure that everything put in there will be recycled.”

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