Why Is the Clearfield Recycling Site No Longer Accepting Mixed Paper?

CLEARFIELD – As requested, the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority is providing clarification with regards to its recent press release about the loss of mixed paper at its Clearfield site.

Follow-up questions have been asked, such as why do some sites accept mixed paper and some do not and why cost is a factor in the decision to remove a material from the recycling program.

“The answer is complex,” said CCSWA Director Jodi Brennan. First, she explained that the authority has three different recycling vendors servicing its sites in an effort to minimize transportation costs.

“The recycling vendor for our site in Clearfield is a private sector business, which is not able to economically recycle mixed paper at this time. That’s understandable.

“Some sites, that still accept mixed paper, are serviced by a public sector recycler who does not necessarily need to make a profit but does need to cover their costs for collecting, processing and transporting the material.”

Secondly, Brennan said that markets are “notorious” for adding and subtracting from programs depending upon whether or not there are stable markets available for the material.

“Right now, paper and plastics markets are taking a substantial blow due to China,” she said. “… For years China has been a big player in terms of consuming U.S. recycling commodities and importing a significant amount of our country’s recyclables.

“However, over the past few years, China has cut back on these imports and announced stricter waste requirements, creating a challenge for recycling markets here in the United States, as the flow of materials into China has ceased or been heavily restricted.”

According to Brennan, the issue is building domestic demand for materials that were once sent to China.  As that domestic demand does not currently exist, used paper products and plastic bottles are piling up across the country.  Now, she said supply outweighs demand.

She went on to say that as a result, people may see additional materials cut from not just Clearfield County’s recycling program, but also many others across the commonwealth – rural and urban alike.

Last month Brennan said the Philadelphia Inquirer reported “that just five years ago, Philadelphia was getting paid good money by contractors for recyclables — about $65 a ton. By last year, it was paying $4 a ton just to get rid of it. Now, it’s paying $38 a ton.”

“That says a lot as Philadelphia has more going for it than Clearfield County in terms of factors that make recycling programs sustainable,” she said.

These factors include population (quantity of recyclables) and very low transportation costs with many of the state’s end markets being located in the Philadelphia region.

Brennan said officials agree that turning a profit from recycling programs should not be the goal. However, she said if operations are to continue, it must at least cover costs with the limited funds available.

CCSWA relies upon revenues from the following sources: 57 percent state grants, 29 percent donations, 12 percent user fees, 1.5 percent revenue from sale of recyclables and .5 percent fines and interest income.

“In addition, the county donates some staff time, office space and equipment to the CCSWA for use in operation of these programs,” Brennan said. “Every attempt is made to keep costs down to the bare minimum.

“The CCSWA must stay within this limited budget, as no other sources of funds are available to draw upon.  And, yes, unfortunately materials may be eliminated according to the funds available to sustain these programs.”

For further information regarding these programs, please contact the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority Office at 814-765-5149.

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