Lexington temporarily stops recycling paper

Photo: Dano / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Photo: Dano / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 (KOSA)
Published: May. 15, 2019 at 4:49 AM EDT
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The city of Lexington, Kentucky, is suspending paper recycling due to "changes in the global marketplace" for recycled materials.

City officials say there is an overabundance of material in domestic markets and Lexington's recycling center cannot store the paper long term.

The change is only temporary as the city is now seeking a new outlet for that paper.

“We have actually been giving the paper away because we would prefer that someone take it and recycle it, even if they are paying, but they don’t even want it free anymore,” says Angela Poe, Program Manager at the recycling center. “Several central Kentucky communities send their material to our facility. It’s Frankfort, it’s Georgetown, Scott County, Shelbyville, and it doesn’t matter if it is city collection or if you have a private hauler. It all comes here. This is the recycle center for this region.”

The root of the halt on paper recycling is what they call a flooded domestic market.

“A lot of materials from us used to go to China. China tightened up its standards, and basically isn’t accepting anything,” says Poe.

The center in Lexington isn’t the only place dealing with the problem.

“It really is a nationwide problem. Some communities have even had to shut down their recycling program and that is not an option for us. We are going to bring back paper whenever we have an outlet,” says Poe.

Residents are being told to put office paper, newspaper, magazines, cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, and similar products in the trash. Residents can continue to recycle corrugated cardboard, like moving and shipping boxes.

Residents who have paper in their bins can still send it, however, the workers at the recycling center will then have to sort it out and transfer it to a landfill.

Nancy Albright, Lexington's Commissioner of Environmental Quality and Public Works, says the city is seeking new recycling outlets for paper. She says at least three new nearby mills are expected to begin receiving materials by late fall.