Recycling is good for the environment. But much of what people put in the recycling bin can't actually be recycled. That's become a costly problem.
Communities across the country used to make money on recycling, but that changed when China stopped taking much of our paper, cardboard and plastic. Now, for the first time, places like Lowell, Massachusetts are paying to dispose of it. Gunther Wellenstein, recycling coordinator for Lowell, says the city could be on the hook for $500,000. Crews in Lowell are now checking bins and giving warnings or even tickets for violations.
Leaders in Sunrise, Florida were also forced to make changes. Richard Salamon, Sunrise city manager, said "The price of processing recyclables increased from $53 a ton to approximately $96 a ton." Because of that, Sunrise is now sending all its trash and recyclables to a waste energy plant to be burned in a process that generates electricity.
Cities that still collect recycling pay more when consumers leave contaminated or non-recyclable items in the bin, because all of it has to be sorted in a facility. Dawn McCormick, a spokesperson for Waste Management, says "We want to recycle clean and loose paper, cardboard, bottles and cans. When in doubt, throw it out."