A few changes are coming to a recycling program set to soon return in Pauls Valley after being shutdown when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived this past March.
Monday, Sept. 21 is the scheduled day for a drop off center on South Walnut to again start accepting items for recycling, along with some collections of cardboard at sites around town.
Director Chip Pearson stresses local residents need to know there were some changes planned for local recycling even before the pandemic shut things down for the safety of the Garvin County Community Living Center clients on the work crews for the program.
“Prior to our stopping recycling in March we had begun to notify people of the changes coming,” Pearson said.
“Some things we were recycling were no longer going to be recycled through the existing program. We wanted people to know there would be some procedural differences.
“When we open up the drop off center there will be new signage and instructions regarding what can be dropped off and what can’t be accepted.
When the program opens back up items that will be accepted for recycling include:
• Aluminum beverage cans
• Small electronics
• Plastic No. 1
• Plastic No. 2
• Sorted office paper
Then there’s the recyclables that have been discontinued and won’t be accepted.
• Steel cans
• Mixed paper
• Mixed plastics
• Shredded paper
• Plastic bags
All the changes are actually the result of an overall shift in recycling for the entire country.
It started in 2018 when China started a ban on the import of recyclables because of “excessive contamination” of the items shipped from the United States.
That meant recycling programs like the one in Pauls Valley had to find alternative places domestically to send the items collected.
“The biggest impact, even more than COVID, is there’s no place for us to take a lot of the things we thought were for recycling,” Pearson says.
“Before COVID-19 the estimates are about 75 percent of that stuff was going into China. They would take what they wanted and then about 75 percent of that would wind up in landfills in other countries or incinerated.
“Not much of it was really being recycled.”
When the virus pandemic did arrive several months ago all the items collected through the local recycling program had nowhere to go and simply piled up in the back area of the living center building on the west side of Pauls Valley.
“We had to dispose of it all at significant expense to us,” he said about all of it eventually ending up in a landfill.