Sustainability Notebook: Columbia stockpiling plastics again, Kirkwood reverses course

It seems uncertainty in the recycling industry continues to linger across U.S. cities, and Missouri municipalities are no exception. From plans to suspend curbside pickup programs to stockpiling plastic scraps, here are some of the latest updates surrounding recycling in the state.

Columbia is stockpiling plastic, again

Columbia is once again stockpiling several types of plastic scraps as it looks for potential buyers in a weak international recycling market.

The mid-Missouri city hoarded around 140 tons of the plastic scraps earlier this year before finding a Canadian buyer in February. Columbia used to sell the material for about 5 cents a pound, city officials said, before China issued a broad ban on recycling imports back in January and sent prices plummeting. Now, the city is lucky to find a buyer that will pay a penny per pound for the plastic.

Ben Kreitner, the city’s waste minimization coordinator, said Columbia now has 154 bales of plastic scraps, No. 3 through No. 7, piling up behind the city’s processing plant. With the bales weighing about 1,000 pounds each, according to Kreitner, that’s roughly 77 tons of plastic.

Luckily, Kreitner said, Columbia has the space to store the extra recycling until it can find a buyer and the city doesn’t currently have plans to suspend any collection programs.

Separately, due to staff shortages, Columbia is experiencing pickup delays for its recycling programs as it focuses on solid waste.

Kirkwood shifts strategy on curbside collection

A St. Louis suburb quickly reversed course on suspending its curbside pickup program for recycling after getting pushback from residents, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Kirkwood announced in August that it planned to suspend the program next month. But last week, the city said it would tap its sanitation department reserve funds to sustain the current single-stream recycling program and absorb extra costs for six to 12 months until more economical solutions are found.

Bill Bensing, Kirkwood’s public services director, told the Post-Dispatch that the problem was that recycling processors are now starting to charge cities to take their recycling goods rather than paying for them. That’s a challenge cities across the U.S. are now facing.

Kirkwood’s recycling processor, Resource Management, said it would start charging the city $35 per ton for its recycling materials, Bensing said, and stop accepting recycling materials as of Oct. 31. The company used to pay the city $15 per ton.

The trend, much like the problems Columbia faces, comes in the wake of China’s recycling ban. About a third of U.S. recycling materials exports went to China last year, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, meaning recycling collectors nationwide are having a hard time finding a home for the material.

Sedalia nabs long-awaited waste-hauling truck

Not all municipalities are reporting negative recycling news. After months of budgeting, ordering and waiting, the city of Sedalia finally received a new waste-hauling truck late last month, the Sedalia Democrat reports.

The new truck ran the city $219,273, paired with three $10,000 waste containers for the truck to carry.

Sedalia Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey said the new truck will not only add to the department’s fleet, but also help to expand the city’s capability to provide waste services efficiently.

The truck can carry containers as large as 25 cubic yards, which could haul anything from recycling scraps to sewer sludge, the city said.

Missouri Business Alert’s sustainability coverage is funded in part by the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District.

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