WMU suspends recycling program

Winchester Municipal Utilities has suspended its recycling program, effective immediately.

“We are going to suspend curbside recycling for now,” WMU Interim General Manager Duke Dryden said Wednesday.

Lexington announced its decision to no longer recycle paper products Tuesday, which directly affects Winchester Municipal Utilities’ recycling operations as WMU sends its recyclables to Lexington’s materials recycling facility. About 11 other communities are also affected by this change.

“When we send our materials over there to them, they separate and sort it,” Dryden said. “We have no way of sorting it here. If we could, we would.”

Because of this recent change in policy by the Lexington Recycle Center to landfill any unclaimed paper and to avoid the increased processing fees associated with these materials, WMU curbside recycling will be suspended until further notice.

WMU will keep its voluntary recycling center, 175 N. Maple St., open. The recycling center is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week; it is only accessible from the WMU North Maple Street entrance.

Plastic screw top bottles and jugs, glass bottles and jars, aluminum and steel cans and dry cardboard will still be recycled from this lot.

Dryden said the news came as a shock as no one had given WMU prior notice before Lexington announced the change Tuesday.

Nancy Albright, the city’s commissioner of Environmental Quality and Public Works, told the Lexington Herald-Leader Lexington hopes “the move is temporary and is looking for other markets for recycled paper.”

According to a report in the Herald-Leader, Lexington began “giving away its recycled paper because there are so few buyers after a change in the global marketplace.”

The Sun reported on this impact last year when former General Manager Mike Flynn told The Sun many cities across the country had suspended recycling operations altogether after China upped its standards for the cleanliness of recycling materials it would buy, upending the market for recycled products.

Because of this, WMU had considered the ramifications of keeping its recycling program, with some discussions about whether it would be too costly to continue or if WMU should make all efforts to maintain the operation.

There were no other recycling plants WMU could use.

“We only have one option, and that’s to take recyclables to Lexington,” Dryden said.

Ultimately, WMU decided to merge its recycling operations with its trash pickup, allowing WMU to save money by condensing the number of employees and trucks needed for the job.

Dryden said since then, WMU had begun breaking even and just recently had been in the green when it came to recycling costs, but with Lexington’s decision to quit accepting paper products, WMU’s costs would certainly rise again. Dryden said about half the recyclables WMU receives is paper.

“It puts us in a bad situation because most of (our recycled) materials are that paper,” Dryden said.

Dryden said the situation is simply out of WMU’s control.

“I can’t force them to take our materials and the cost has gone up already because of recycling,” he said. “There’s nothing we can do.”

Now, all curbside recyclable material that is collected will be sent to the landfill.

For more information, contact the WMU solid waste department at 859-744-1170.