Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Reaffirms Items Accepted in City’s Curbside Recycling Program

With recent news that some Wasatch Front cities and towns are changing what is accepted in recycling bins, Salt Lake City reiterates that these changes do not affect our residents.

Draper, Midvale, Murray, Riverton, Sandy, South Jordan and West Jordan recently announced that they are no longer accepting paper in residential bins, including “paper bags, paper, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, and cereal boxes,” according to Midvale City’s website

Salt Lake City continues to accept all clean paper products—except shredded paper.

Additionally, the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District (WFWRD), which serves over a dozen other cities in Salt Lake County is not changing the materials accepted in their cans. In total there are 14 municipalities in Salt Lake County that are not changing: Salt Lake City and the 13 cities in the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, according to Pam Roberts, Executive Director of WFWRD.

In addition to paper, Salt Lake City accepts plastic containers, metal cans, and cardboard for recycling. Items should be clean and free from food residue, oils, or liquids.

“We have not made any new restrictions on what is accepted for recycling in Salt Lake City’s curbside program since early 2018,” said Lance Allen, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling Division Director. “At that time, when China’s National Sword policy went into effect, we only restricted plastic bags and films, Styrofoam, and shredded paper. We also reiterated that recyclables should be clean. Residents should continue to recycle paper, plastic containers, cardboard, and cans as they normally would, and take pride in the beneficial impact they’re having on the environment.”

While recycling markets have been in flux since the changes coming from China over the last two years, recycling continues to be foundational to Salt Lake City’s overall waste management program.  “It’s more than just economics,” said Salt Lake City Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett. “We are committed to doing the right thing for the environment. Short-term costs fluctuate, but the long-term impact of recycling on landfill space, natural resources, air quality, etc. is undeniable.” 

While mixed paper was one of the commodities that China banned under National Sword primarily for its susceptibility to high-contamination, if the stream is processed properly, there are both domestic and international markets for the material. In fact, new paper mills are opening around the world, with a local mill, Crossroads Paper, coming to the Salt Lake Valley in early 2022.

New technology in MRFs (Materials Recovery Facilities) is also coming online to process the influx of new types of material and the general increase in the amount of recyclables moving through our system.  Waste Management, Salt Lake City’s recycling processor, is currently building a new state-of-the-art MRF in Salt Lake City which will open in early 2020.

“The current MRFs in the valley were built 10-15 years ago,” said Allen.  “They were designed to process a different recyclable stream with different markets than exist today.  The new Waste Management MRF will be capable of processing today’s recyclable streams—especially mixed paper and plastics—more cost-effectively. They will also generate a cleaner, more marketable product in the end. This is not the time for us to be moving away from accepting paper.”

“Our focus right now is on education around reducing contamination and increasing the diversion of acceptable materials,” Allen added.  “When the recycling markets return, and they will, Salt Lake City will be better positioned to capitalize on these opportunities. In the meantime, by continuing to offer the most comprehensive recycling program possible, we are investing in the many other benefits that recycling brings to a community.”

Salt Lake City collects recycling from approximately 45,000 residential customers and 650 businesses and multi-family dwellings in city boundaries. We process approximately 550-750 tons of recyclables per month. 

“While there has been a lot of confusion and doom and gloom in the recycling world over the last couple years,” said Bennett, “we’re looking at this as an opportunity. Recycling markets are shifting. New enterprises are opening. Consumer behavior is changing. New technology is coming online. We thank residents for their patience and for their continued commitment to recycling.”

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