City Council discussed options to save Bakersfield’s recycling program at their meeting Tuesday.
Its fate largely depends on how much of a gamble the council is willing to take on the global market.
Earlier this year, China sharply limited the kind and quantity of recycling it accepts from the U.S. In addition, the value of recyclables has dropped dramatically over the past decade. Another problem: the bad recycling habits of residents is putting a strain on the system.
Bakersfield used to sell its recyclables to sorting centers for $60 a ton. Now, due to market changes, it must pay $70 a ton.
The city has already amassed $750,000 in losses so far. If the recycling program continues, it will cost the city $875,000.
So, the city council must decide if Bakersfield can afford to absorb these losses until the market gets better.
“I’ve seen this cycle over and over and over. This is the worst I’ve seen it in history, but we do have signs of change coming,” said Kevin Barnes, Bakersfield’s solid waste director.
Barnes presents three potential solutions.
One is to put more restrictions on what can and can’t be recycled. However, Barnes said, “cutting out certain materials could be counterproductive and cost more overall.”
The second option is to eliminate curbside recycling all altogether, but the state mandates that cities maintain a recycling rate of 58%. Trashing the program completely would be quite difficult.
The final option is to weather the storm.
“The cultural value of cleaning up our environment is pretty established–in Bakersfield and everywhere in the country. It would be a mixed signal to discontinue something like this,” said Councilmember Bruce Freeman.
“I agree we should weather the storm or wait and see at this point,” said Councilmember Chris Parlier.
The Council will meet again in two weeks to make a decision.