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Are North Texas’ Recycling Programs Facing Peril?

By Victoria Howard, Dallas Sierra Club Recycling Coordinator

The recent headlines in papers like The New York Times both shock and alarm the recycling supporters reading them. Opening sentences declare: “Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents’ recycling material” and “[T]he Florida city of Deltona faced the reality that despite their best efforts to recycle, their curbside program was not working and suspended it.” * Advocates of recycling worry that the progress attained in the last three decades is about to become undone and give way to more bulging landfills and polluted air.

The increased cost of dealing with contaminated recyclables is motivating several U.S. cities to alter or eliminate their programs. With targeted neighborhoods being identified and singled out, Philadelphia is choosing to burn those loads with highly contaminated recyclables in nearby Chester City. “[I]n the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incinerator facility and burned...” **

How does this troubling trend affect North Texas’ recycling stream? “Since recycling is becoming less viable or more expensive, we’re [the City of Dallas] advocating for less consumption.” Murray Myers, Dallas Sustainability Manager tells me in an email exchange. “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot are being highlighted as the 5 R’s...so that the waste is never generated.”

Myers goes on to explain that “ Dallas is in better shape than other cities since the [current] contract with FCC was completed before the markets plummeted and there are more local markets in DFW... [The]FCC hasn’t relied heavily on markets from overseas, but other cities in the region use different MRFs and they’re suffering.”

Although slightly comforting that Dallas and surrounding areas are not immediately faced with the challenges that the North East is dealing with, it is imperative that it stays that way.

*(Corkery, Michael. “As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling.” NY Times, March 16,2019),
**(Milman, Oliver. ‘Moment of reckoning’ US cities burn recyclables after China bans imports” The Guardian, February 21, 2019)

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