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Des Moines dumps paper recyclables due to lack of buyers

December 3, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Tons of paper meant to be recycled was instead dumped into a Des Moines landfill because of plunging prices for the material.

Mid America Recycling President Mick Barry told the Des Moines Register that about 20 tons of paper a day ended up in the landfill this summer. Des Moines pays the company $47 per ton to processes the metro area’s recyclables, but that fee will likely increase when the contract is renegotiated, Barry said.

“That’s where the markets have deteriorated to,” Barry said.

Cities have been struggling to get rid of recyclables since China tightened standards on what it would accept about two years ago. China’s solid waste imports dropped by 57 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to Xinhua, a state-owned news agency.

Barry said contamination is also increasing recycling costs since trash must be removed from recycling bins before material can be sold.

Recycled paper is now only worth around $30 per ton, down from $100 per ton six years ago, said Jonathan Gano, Des Moines’ Public Works Director.

Des Moines’ recycling program is expected to see a $50,000 deficit next fiscal year, compared to $320,000 in revenue in 2017. The city is looking to raise its solid waste fee by 2 percent next year to help cover losses.

Metro Waste Authority, which handles recycling for the metro’s suburbs, has seen costs increase. The recyclable processing fee it paid to Mid America increased by $18 per ton to $65 in October, which will ultimately cost Metro Waste an additional $25,000 a month.

MWA hasn’t yet passed on that extra cost to customers, said Leslie Irlbeck, the company’s public affairs manager.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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