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Collierville recycling program feeling pressure from international policies


Recycling programs all across the United States are starting to feel the impact of China’s new waste import restriction policy.
Implemented in January of 2018, the policy prohibits the import of certain solid wastes into their country – including mixed paper and mixed plastics.
China also began a new contamination standard applicable to recyclable imports that is extremely stringent and inconsistent with the recycling community’s global standards.
As the largest export for recyclables generated in the United States, China’s waste import restrictions are causing recycling costs to rise in municipal recycling programs, including Collierville.
“For the last couple of years, the cost of recycling has skyrocketed,” said Bill Kilp, Director of Collierville Public Services. “We went from receiving $25 a ton for our recyclables to paying $80 a ton to dispose of the material. In comparison, we dispose of garbage for $25 a ton.”
According to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) China imported approximately 13 million tons of paper and 776,000 tons of plastic from the United States annually.
With the gap between domestic processing and recycling demand, the restrictions are already adversely affecting municipal recycling programs.
“Some communities are charging upwards of $9.00 a month to recycle. Collierville residents pay $3.60 for our recycling program, whether they recycle or not, as part of their $22.00 sanitation fee,” said Kilp.
The town’s recycling fee is lower than average, because every resident pays the fee; around 75 percent of Collierville residents participate in the weekly recycling program.
To combat rising costs and the over-supply of recyclable materials, municipal recycling programs are also sending large quantities of recyclables to landfills.
The town spends an average of $700,000 annually on the recycling program. If the recyclables were sent to a landfill, the Town would save around $400,000.
Fewer Recycling Pick
Ups May Be in the Future

Another solution to the supply and demand issue is offering recycling pick-ups on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
The Town of Collierville has a weekly recycling program, where other communities are choosing a less frequent schedule to reduce costs.
Until new domestic or international markets develop for recyclables, the town of Collierville, along with municipal recycling programs across the country, will continue to explore options to the over-supply of recyclable materials.