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County cuts back recycling program

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Only cardboard and metal will be accepted

By Mark Manicone

Lancaster County is cutting back its recycling program, at least for now, according to County Administrator Steve Willis.
“The cost has gone to $98 a ton, and its just $28 to bury it in the landfill,” he said. “If the market revives, great. If not, then we’ll stay this way for the foreseeable future.”
The city of Lancaster is scrapping its program altogether.
“China has ceased accepting U.S. recycling materials as of January, leading to a glut in the market. It’s just become cost-prohibitive, and it’s happening all over the country. That’s why we’re suspending it,” Lancaster City Administrator Flip Hutfle said last week.
Historically, the county has paid the fees for processing the recyclable materials for both the city of Lancaster and Heath Springs. With costs continuing to rise, it isn’t feasible to recycle. And with China out of the picture, the market has basically dried up all over the country, Willis said.
“China was the main buyer of recyclable materials. I can’t say for certain that it’s a result of the tariffs and trade war, but the timing is amazingly coincidental,” Willis said.
The county will switch to its former system of recycling only cardboard and metal, Willis said. County Council has been made aware of the situation, and will be presented the details in December, but the change will be made administratively rather than by council vote.
“If council says we just love our recycling, my next question would be, ‘Where’s the money coming from?’ because we would need a budget amendment. We can’t ask the taxpayers to pay for that,” Willis said.
“There’s just not much of a domestic market in terms of recycling.”
The county is still finalizing details of the switch, but Willis anticipates that the change from the current commingled recycling (a variety of unsorted recyclable materials) over to cardboard and metal only will happen in December.
“Absent finding someone with access to a market that isn’t there, and willing to process at a reasonable cost – and I’m not holding my breath on that one – we’ll be transitioning back,” Willis said.

Follow reporter Mark Manicone on Twitter @mark_manicone or contact him at (803) 283-1152.