American recyclers have been forced to process more plastics themselves because it is not that easy to outsource them to overseas markets in China, Malaysia and elsewhere.
Mali Maeder, Pexels
Norton Environmental has been collecting, sorting and then selling recyclable materials in Flagstaff for over two decades.
With the city's contract with Norton nearing its end, officials are currently considering how best to handle recycling.
This deal with Norton has long been unfavorable for the city, and since China stopped buying many types of recyclables in 2018, the recycling business has become even more difficult.
The contract signed with Norton in the late 1990s stipulates that the city pays Norton to process 80 tons of recycled materials per day. But Todd Hanson, director of City Solid Waste, said the city never got that amount. In September of this year, for example, the city was only delivering an average of around 27 tons per day.
With all that said, Hanson said the best option at the end of the contract is to simply convert the city's recycling facility into a transfer center and have it all shipped to a facility in the greater Phoenix area.
That won't happen for a few years, said Hanson. The deal with Norton ends in 2023, but Hanson said when it comes to the waste business, it's best to start planning several years in advance.
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Earlier this year, Flagstaff City Council agreed and followed city officials' suggestion to drive everything down to the valley.