County landfill suspends recycling program

County landfill suspends recycling program

County landfill suspends recycling program

The Humboldt County Landfill recently announced it suspended its recycling program. According to DeLong Construction Office Manager Jolinda Warn, the recycling facility will no longer be accepting paper, cardboard or plastic. DeLong Construction manages the landfill for the county.

“We were still using our broker out of Utah, but the domestic cardboard paper mills are so overwhelmed with material right now, they just can't take it,” Warn said.

The county facility will continue to take metal, used oil and wood products.

In a recent email, Humboldt County Manager Dave Mendiola wrote, “The Humboldt County Regional Landfill has been recycling for many years under an annual assessment on property taxes, part of which is set aside for recycling efforts. Unfortunately, we had to suspend recycling efforts … as there is a worldwide issue with facilities that recycle.” The county discontinued its efforts in mid-August.

The city of Winnemucca also uses the Humboldt County Landfill. 

Both Mendiola and Warn said the problem is a result of China’s decision to limit importing recycled materials last year. 

The U.S. exports about one-third of its recycling, and nearly half went to China. For decades, China has used recyclables from around the world to supply its manufacturing boom. But that changed in 2017 when China announced its ‘’’National Sword’’’ program which banned many scrap imports and imposed strict quality standards on others. 

According to a National Waste & Recycling Association Brief, acceptable limits for contamination in imported waste were cut from 5-10 percent to 0.5 percent. Since then almost no plastic scrap has been exported to China from the United States and shipments of metal and paper scrap have been sharply reduced. Scrap plastic imports dropped from 3.5 million metric tons in 2017 to 21,300 metric tons in the first half of 2018.

In November 2017, officials from the state's Department of Environmental Protection said the ban was “greatly affecting markets” since most recyclables from Nevada are sent to China through the ports of Oakland or Los Angeles.

Warn said they have contacted other brokers in California and Oregon, but so far there have been no takers. “The [brokers] won't even give you a price for it at this point,” Warn said.

The recycling program has existed at least since 2005, Warn says, and Delong Construction has been managing the program from the beginning. “We've done it for many, many years,” Warn said. “It's never made money. It's been more of a community service that we were happy to do and try and keep some of that material out of the landfill.”

Warn said bringing back the recycling program will depend on their recycling partners. “We're hoping as those domestic mills work through the backlog of materials, in a few months or a year, they'll start taking [paper and plastic] again and we can re-evaluate and maybe start up again.”