Despite fluctuating prices, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet encourages and promotes recycling

But each county must decide what’s best for its budget

Lexington’s moratorium on the recycling of paper products has created a number of questions from consumers and businesses. The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, Division of Waste Management (DWM), works hand-in-hand with the county solid waste coordinators to encourage and promote recycling, while overseeing state government’s recycling efforts, which are required by statute.

Jon Maybriar, director of the DWM, said that the economics of recycling has recently shifted, making it a much greater challenge for counties, municipalities – and the state, to recycle.

Within the past few years, what recyclers will accept has narrowed. China and other countries that have historically purchased paper, cardboard, plastic and other recycled material from the U.S., now require up to a 95-percent purity standard, a difficult benchmark for many recycling facilities to meet.

Mixed recycling returns only a fraction of the money it used to bring, Maybriar said. Although the Commonwealth’s white office paper recycling program processes nearly 176 pounds of paper per state employee, the price paid by recyclers has decreased in the last eight months from $220 to $145 per ton. The price for recycled cardboard has dropped by 50 percent.

The elimination of any type of recycling will put more load on landfills, which now will be taking the unrecycled paper, as well as increase the likelihood of illegal dumps and open burning, he said.

Maybriar encourages each county to manage their recycling program to the best of its ability, according to its budget, understanding that prices will fluctuate. “We’ll need to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs, and look for other sources of recycling if needed.”

The Energy and Environment Cabinet is available for guidance, Maybriar said, should a county, municipality or business need it. The Recycling and Local Assistance Branch provides technical assistance, outreach, and training to public and private entities, and administers a number of grant programs. “We can do a lot to educate consumers and manufacturers. Now’s the perfect time to have those conversations.”

The changing recycling landscape is forcing a much-needed conversation, Maybriar said. “That is, how do we recycle better?”

The answer? “Buy less. Package less. Recycle smarter. This issue doesn’t just land on the shoulders of recycling facilities,” Maybriar said. “Industry, manufacturers, consumers all have to be smarter in how we reduce, reuse and recycle.”

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