Chandler’s recycling costs likely to rise The Chandler Arizonan

Chandler’s recycling costs likely to rise

Chandler’s recycling costs likely to rise

By Kevin Reagan

Arizonan Staff Writer


The Chandler City Council will have to decide soon whether it wants to continue offering a recycling service that’s becoming increasingly more expensive to operate. 

Just a couple years ago, the city was making money off the bottles and paper it collected from residents. But changes in the global market have made it more difficult finding a buyer for all of Chandler’s recyclables. 

China’s gotten stricter on what types of trash it will buy from foreign sellers and not many other countries are stepping up to fill the gap. The drop in demand has dramatically devalued prices for recycled cardboard, aluminum and glassware.

As a result, some Valley cities have limited what types of recyclables they will collect or discontinued their recycling programs altogether. 

Chandler will decide on Feb. 27 whether it wants to renew its recycling contract with United Fibers for a higher price. 

The city estimates spending $1.2 million for a one-year extension of its contract United Fibers, which processes recyclables and sells them to manufacturers who can re-purpose the material. 

Less than two years ago, the city was earning more than $500,000 on the recyclables it gave to United Fibers. Then the contractor started to charge $61 for every ton of material it processed for Chandler, while still offering the city a 65-percent revenue share. 

During this last year, the city was invoiced $560,300 for processing about 19,000 tons of trash. 

The city expects United Fibers to raise its rate to $80 and add a $40 penalty for every ton of recyclables contaminated with hazardous materials. 

Gregg Capps, a resource manager for the city’s Public Works Department, said Chandler will have to “re-brand” its entire recycling program so residents better understand what it can put in their recycling bin. 

The market is getting pickier when it comes to items contaminated by food or biological materials, he explained, and will likely send these items straight to the landfill. 

On average, about 19 percent of Chandler’s recyclables are contaminated and unusable for repurposing.

“The cleaner the bins are, the lower costs it would be to Chandler,” Capps said.

Mesa has begun punishing residents who attempt to recycle contaminated materials by immediately removing their recycle bins.

Chandler has not yet taken that strategy and will instead ramp up its education efforts to keep residents informed on how not to contaminate recyclables.

Capps predicted the city having to scale back how much recycling it picks up in order to keep its invoices low.   

“We’re going to have to reduce the items that we accept just to keep those costs down until the market comes back,” Capps said.

Not renewing the United Fibers contract would still generate a large expenditure for Chandler, as the city would have to pay about $818,000 to haul its recyclables to the landfill.

Mayor Kevin Hartke doesn’t think canceling the recycling program would be a responsible decision and would only create bigger problems in the future. 

“It’s a short-term solution for anybody to cease recycling because then we’re filling up landfills quicker and then for them to develop new landfills – the costs of those are going to be astronomical,” the mayor said. 

To help offset the impacts of climbing recycling costs, the city raised its trash fees by $1 in December, which is projected to generate $937,100 in revenue. 

A recent survey done by the city found that 81 percent of residents would support paying an extra $2 to keep curbside recycling in Chandler. 

The program’s popularity is prompting the city to reach out to other communities to consider a regional solution to the recycling problem. 

Capps said there’s been talk of possibly opening a processing facility somewhere in the East Valley that could serve Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa. But starting such a project would require a large amount of capital, he said, and takes years to complete.

“There’s no commitments at this point to do that,” he stipulated. 

By extending its contract with United Fibers, the city hopes it buys enough time for Chandler to find other cost-saving measures that will make recycling more affordable in the coming years.

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