Dothan's recycling program in jeopardy

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Dothan (WTVY)-- Dothan commissioners must soon decide whether to keep or dump the city’s recycling program. If they choose to abolish it, much of the blame is on China.

Since the early 1990’s, the United States has depended on China to handle recycled goods, especially plastic products.

However, in January, China banned the importation of most waste, citing protection of its environment and health of its people.

Dothan Public Works Director Charles Metzger said the result is far less demand for recyclable goods and that has put Dothan and other cities in a lurch.

“The United States is mostly about picking up and sorting recyclables then sending them elsewhere. Now that China has essentially closed its doors, the cost of recycling has gone up,” Metzger told WTVY.

Even if China accepts recyclables, the country’s new standards impose revamped rules for the level of "contamination," or non-recyclables, accepted in shipments. Metzger said the new, stringent regulations are driving costs up and perhaps Dothan out.

He believes this is a big setback. After Dothan’s first recycling effort failed, the city began a new, limited program about four years ago. It later expanded the initiative to include additional neighborhoods.

When China implemented restrictions---some believe because of an ongoing trade war with the U.S.---it stopped environmental momentum in its tracks.

However, foreign relations are not the only issue with recycling, Metzger claims. Six convenience dumping stations are now reduced to four and those are often filled with non-recyclable materials such as televisions and furniture.

There are other issues, as well. Grant money to purchase recycling carts and vehicles may force the city to continue its program for at least a year whether it wants to or not. Metzger also worries, if recycling is abolished, people will forget its importance.

“There are cities that take recyclables to their landfills with other trash without the public knowing, so people still believe they are recycling even if they’re not. Other cities are charging extra to pick up recyclables. Metzger is confident Dothan will do neither.

City commissioners will meet in November to discuss the future of the city’s recycling program. Options include keeping the program in its current state, accept only cardboard that is more lucrative, or cease the city’s recycling program.