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Due to rising operational costs and global decreases in recyclable commodity values, the Perry County Solid Waste Committee will suspend the curbside recycling service offered to City of Perryville residents. The decision to halt the service at the end of this month was made by the committee at the April 25 meeting.
“City residents can expect curbside service for the final week of this month, but unfortunately we are suspending service at the end of April,” Perryville City Administrator Brent Buerck said. “Currently, residents are paying $1 monthly to participate in the curbside collection. Residents will notice on their city utility bills for the month of May that they are no longer being charged.”
To further inform households the service is coming to an end, the City of Perryville will be placing stickers with additional information about the cancellation of curbside pick-up on the sides of the blue totes residents were issued to collect their plastics, paper and glass when homeowners set them curb-side for the final time this week. Anyone who wants to continue recycling will need to take their products directly to the Perry County Recycling Center.
According to Waste Management Supervisor Sheila Schnurbusch, roughly one-third of households in Perryville participate in the curbside pick-up program. She said the recycling center has struggled to find a market for the recyclables the county is collecting, and estimates the curbside service was operating at a more than $45,000 annual deficit in part because of the rising operational cost, and a decrease in the resale price the center gets for the recyclable goods they collect.
“The resale prices we are getting for recycled materials cover just a fraction of the labor and equipment costs associated with picking up the materials curbside. Unfortunately operating in the red is no longer sustainable,” she said.
Schnurbusch said cardboard, natural plastics, office paper and magazines are just a few of the recyclable commodities that have seen staggering decreases over the last four years.
“In 2015, cardboard brought around $200 a ton,” she said. “Right now, we are getting $60 a ton. Two months ago, natural plastics brought in $700 a ton. That price has dropped to $300 a ton. Recyclable paper products like newsprint, magazines and office paper have also taken big hits.”
The dip in the global market for recycling began in 2017, and has been steadily decreasing since. China, which served as the world’s leading recyclables buyer has said no to loads of lower-grade papers, metals and plastics that were once welcome due to the Asian country’s policy shifts geared towards anti-pollution that require recyclables rate at a higher purity rate the US isn’t able to accommodate. Another factor is the rising cost of oil involved in the transportation and creation of plastics have found manufacturers making thinner packaging that is no longer of recyclable grade.
“A lot of what the recycling center takes in right now, will likely end up in landfills without a proper place to store it while the United States figures out how to use the products China isn’t buying,” Schnurbusch said.
The cost imbalance of recycling has seen municipalities across the United States re-evaluate their recycling services. Last year, communities like O’Fallon had to modify their curbside pickup telling customers paper products would no longer be picked up after a St Louis-area processing facility shut down, while other cities, such as Scott City to the south, had to suspend the service all together. Other municipalities across the country are taking steep financial hits to keep curbside service in place.
Perry County Presiding Commissioner Mike Sauer, who serves as a member of the Perry County Solid Waste Committee, said a choice had to be made, and quickly because of the money drain curbside presented.
“Our goal with the recycling center has never been to make a lot of money, but we do need to operate without a substantial loss, or we are not being good stewards of the tax payer’s dollar,” Sauer said, “and continuing to operate the curbside service at a loss was bad business practice. A couple of years ago, we started charging a $1 monthly fee to city residents participating in the curbside collection, but with the decreased value of the materials, this only covers a fraction of the actual cost to provide the service. The true number needed would be closer to $5 or $6 a month just to break even,”
However he added that despite the current commodities poor financial climate, he hoped recycling efforts continued in Perry County.
“It’s still important that as a community we continue to recycle,” Sauer said. “It’s in the best interest of the environment for us to keep landfills free of what we can reuse, but until global commodities improve, it doesn’t make fiscal sense to offer curbside pick-up.”
Administrator Buerck said residents are encouraged to keep recycling, and could keep the industrial plastic totes the recycling center provided households participating in curbside pickup.
“You are welcome to continue using your blue tote to deliver your recyclables to the Perry County Recycling Center,” Buerck said.
The Perry County Recycling Center is located at 5232 N Highway 51. The facility is open for drop-offs Monday - Friday, 7 am - 4 pm, and on Saturdays from 8 am – 11 am, for unmanned drop-offs where customers can place their recyclables in an onsite. The Perry County Solid Waste Committee will be evaluating service delivery options in the future. Residents with questions about recycling should contact Schnurbusch at the recycling center at 573-547-5006. For a complete list of what materials are accepted at the Perry County Recycling Center visit: perrycountymo.us/113/Recycling-Center.