Jackson’s Recycling Center will no longer accept plastics Nos. 3-7, including plastic bags, due to a decreased demand for these materials worldwide. Starting on May 28, these items must be placed with resident’s regular trash and placed at curbside with other non-recyclable items.
Common types of plastics Nos. 3-7 the city will no longer accept at the center include garbage bags, newspaper sleeves, yogurt cups, sour cream and cottage cheese containers, margarine and butter containers, clam-shells, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, and more.
Jackson residents can still recycle plastic containers No. 1 and No. 2, such as milk/juice jugs, soda/water bottles, containers for condiments and shampoo bottles. Jackson Sanitation Recycle Foreman Teddy Scholl advises to look at the plastic code on the bottom of products or call the Recycling Center for clarification on what can be accepted.
“The good rule of thumb: if it’s really thin and flimsy – not rigid, and not meant to hold liquid or food products in a way that a water bottle would,” Scholl said, it’s likely not an accepted material.
For over a decade, the majority of the world’s recyclable material was sold to China. This changed in January 2018, when China enacted its National Sword policy banning the majority of foreign recyclables. The ban was aimed to combat the country’s pollution issues and a shift to focus on recycling internally.
Jackson Administrative Services Director Rodney Bollinger said U.S. recyclers have begun to ship some of this plastic to other developing countries, but most don’t have the infrastructure or capacity to deal with the 7 million tons of plastic waste that is shipped overseas annually.
“The reality is that plastic recycling is ‘broken’ in the United States and this trend is nationwide, not just local,” Bollinger said. “We expect that the plastics and recycling industries in the United States are working on ways to find alternatives for plastics 3-7, but it is unknown how long it will take to make these changes.”
According to Scholl, the Recycling Center received around seven to 10 tons of the soon-to-be-banned plastics each month and were being charged $70-$100 per ton to have it taken by the City’s recycling vendor, Republic Services in St. Louis. The city can throw away the plastics for $42 per ton.
“You can do the math and see what the difference is,” Scholl said. “So it’s easy to tell what and why the City decided to eliminate No. 3-7 plastics.”
Bollinger said the City looked at other local municipalities and how they are handling this trend. The City of Cape Girardeau stopped accepting plastics Nos. 3-7 in June 2018.
He added that city officials understand this is likely to be a frustrating change for many residents who have grown to appreciate the diverse recycling options in Jackson, but hopes that now will be good time for residents to evaluate their purchasing options to look for goods that are packaged in plastic containers No. 1 and No. 2.