China's trash policy becomes budget problems for towns

Published on Friday, 8 March 2019 20:07


BRISTOL – With China no longer accepting as many recycled materials from the U.S., the recycling industry which once generated revenues for many local communities has now become an additional expense.

Charles Wiegert, director of public works in Plymouth, explained that China has taken steps to reduce contamination. Furthermore, as a product of fracking, China has gained access to materials to produce its own plastic and so they don’t need to import as much from the U.S. as they used to.

“This is a world problem, but it’s coming to the forefront again now that municipalities are crafting their budgets,” said Wiegert. “Town leaders have been discussing this since around when President Donald Trump was elected.”

Wiegert said that Plainville is one of several towns that has a recycling contract with Plymouth. The town had previously been receiving a $9.05 credit per ton of materials recycled. But, for the 2019-2020 budget, Plymouth is budgeting for an anticipated $70 per ton expense.

“For Plymouth, this is going to come out to around $80,000,” said Weigert.

In Plainville, Town Manager Robert E. Lee said while presenting his budget proposal Monday, that the “recycling world had been flipped on its head.”

Plainville also has a recycling contract with Berlin which through the end of June will pay Plainville $9 per ton to take the town’s recycling. However, due to the change in Chinese policy, Plainville will now have to pay Berlin $65 to $70 per ton to take recyclables. This translates to a $64,000 line item in the budget.

In Southington, the town doesn’t have a recycling contract tied to the budget. Instead, Town Manager Mark Sciota said that homeowners have individual contracts with a trash collector.

“In the past, the cost per ton was zero dollars,” said Sciota. “But, starting July 1, residents will likely see a charge. The town has put out a request for proposal to see who will be doing our recycling as of July 1.”

Sciota explained that if a hypothetical company were to charge $79 a quarter for picking up trash, that company may also start charging $5 a quarter for recycling – which would translate to an additional $20 expense for residents a year.

“There is a real crisis in recycling,” Sciota said. “Unless there is a market for it, recycled materials will start to pile up.”

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, General News, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington Herald on Friday, 8 March 2019 20:07. Updated: Friday, 8 March 2019 20:10.