Could Austin Recycling Costs Be on the Rise?

If you’re like most people, you don’t think too much about your recycling rates. But new restrictions could mean less revenue for US recycling centers, and residents may pay the price. All across the country, resource recovery programs are having to rethink their monthly rates to absorb budget deficits—and Austin is not immune.

Until recently, materials gathered from Austin recycling programs were sorted and melted down into sheets of raw materials, then sold to other countries—predominantly China—to be used in manufacturing. However, new restrictions on imports have sent shockwaves through Austin recycling facilities and municipal waste management agencies across all of the US.


Why Costs Are Rising?

The Chinese ban is an effort on the part of President Xi Jinping to clean up the local environment. Introduced in January, the ban prohibits imports on 24 categories of scrap and recyclables. Prior to the act, many of these recyclables came to China straight from government waste recovery facilities here in the States.

To give you some sense of how big the problem is, consider these numbers: since 1992, countries across the globe have exported over 106 million metric tons of plastic scrap to China. That’s about 45 percent of the world’s plastic recyclables. Now experts estimate that the new ban will displace around 111 million metric tons of plastic waste. In the first six months since the policy went into effect, the US sent 3 million fewer tons of recyclable scrap to China, a drop off of about 38 percent.

With one of their biggest buyers suddenly calling it quits, curbside recycling programs are struggling to make up their costs. While there are other markets for recycled scrap, recovery processes in manufacturing countries like Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam, just aren’t as sophisticated or advanced as those in place in China. That means they can’t take in as much scrap. Vietnam, for instance, has already reached its cap for imported recycled scrap.

That reality has been hitting US recycling programs hard. For instance, Santa Fe’s Waste Management Agency was left with a $450,000 cost increase this year due to the ban. In many places, waste management agencies have raised monthly rates for recycling and waste recovery. Residents in the greater Chicago area have seen a one to two dollar rate hike for their monthly recycling services. In New Hampshire, the town of Hooksett ended their curbside recycling program, citing rising costs as the cause.

Austin recycling centers have yet to announce a rate increase or any suspension of services. City officials say they’re concerned, but not ready to change rates. Still, that could all change if costs continue to surge.


What Can You Do to Save Money on Recycling?

When waste recovery costs go up, you don’t have many options. In Austin, recycling, waste management and bulk pickup costs are all rolled together as a single fee, so it’s not like you can just opt out of curbside recycling.

However, if you’re concerned about rates, there is one thing you can do to offset the extra cost: bring your recyclables to a local recycling center, like Gardner Metals. We take aluminum cans, steel and tin containers and many other materials that are routinely tossed into curbside recycling bins. And we pay you for the privilege!


Household Recyclables Accepted at Our Austin Recycling Centers:


Household Recyclables Not Accepted at Our Austin Recycling Centers:

  • Plastic bottles and plastic food containers
  • Paper and cardboard
  • Plastic bags
  • Glass bottles, jars and containers


Don’t let rate hikes hit you in the wallet. Do the smart thing and contact us today for a free quote for your scrap metal recyclables.