recycling cost sorting

The cost to cities for recycling is increasing, as workers must be paid to sort through recyclables.

Recycling, while important to Glendale city officials, has become increasingly difficult economically. 

Mayor Jerry Weiers called recycling “a huge problem” at a recent workshop.

Glendale’s Director of Field Operations,  Michelle Woytenko, gave a Jan. 14 presentation to the city council on recycling.

The presentation came as a result of the city considering changes or the complete stoppage of its recycling program altogether, as directed in a December meeting by the council.

Since starting its program in 2000, recycling has become more cost-inefficient. 

Recycling costs Glendale about $1 million per year, according to staff reports.

The process will include an economic analysis of the recycling program, outreach to the public through various forms of social media, a survey and local meetings and an education plan to inform Glendale’s residents on the new policies moving forward after a decision is made, said Woytenko.

In years past, recyclables from Glendale and throughout the West Valley were transported out of the country in large quantities, especially to China. However, the Chinese have made drastic changes to their collection of items like newspaper. Recently, the country stopped allowing many recyclables due to contamination of materials, as they want the items to be nearly perfectly clean.

Glendale does not only recycle its residents’ materials either. It also takes in recyclables from Peoria, Goodyear and Avondale and swaps some recyclables with Phoenix, according to Woytenko.

The analysis portion will include a review of the exact cost of recycling to Glendale.

Woytenko and her staff will look at what other cities across Arizona and the United States are doing to successfully operate recycling programs at a reasonable cost. Glendale already has stopped recycling on plastics labeled with the recycling logo and numbers 3-7, and will possibly consider more changes in the future.

“What do we have to do to fix recycling if we choose to stay with recycling? So we’re looking at what commodities we take in, how would we market them, and should we actually be recycling,” she asked.

Education was an aspect Councilman Jamie Aldama focused on in the meeting. He said other cities are recycling to appease people, but their citizens do not know the true cost.

“If we continue to recycle and there’s a dollar amount it’s costing us, and we’re checking that box, that our citizens know we’re doing this and making our footprint smaller, but it’s costing you money,” Aldama said.

Council agreed to add another 100 hours of staff time to the project, which was already scheduled to take an estimated 320-340 hours to complete.

As of now, the future of recycling in Glendale is in flux and Mayor Jerry Weiers is interested in what solutions recycling staff can come up.

“It’s a huge problem that has to be dealt with,” Weiers said.