CLEMSON, SC (WSPA) – The City of Clemson will suspend curbside recycling pick-up beginning August 1st.

“Due to the increasing costs and proven ineffectiveness of curbside recycling, the City of Clemson will suspend curbside collection of recycling effective Monday, August 1st, 2022,” the City’s website announced.

In addition, leaders said the market for recycled material has collapsed.

“The market for recycling has declined and we’re going to set up a collection station at public works,” said Clemson City Administrator Andy Blondeau. “And we’re going to gather the recyclables there and then we have a partnership with Clemson University, where they have a buyer where they takes some of the material and we will get the material to them, so that it can be recycled.”

 Blondeau said they will continue to pick up cardboard by request.

“Due to the lack of demand for recyclable plastics, it is especially difficult to recycle plastics from single recycle streams as vendors are very selective and strongly favor plastics from pure recycling streams,” the city’s Facebook page said. “When a recycle stream is contaminated, there is often no market for those recyclables, leaving no choice other than for them to wind up in the landfill.”

“From what I understand, people just aren’t buying the material,” Blondeau said. “Well, I think cardboard and paper there’s still a market for. And that is being recycled pretty well right now. It’s pretty much the plastics and cans.”

Pickens County Council invested in a new bailer which will help yield a more marketable product.

“A new bailer installed last week at the landfill, will increase the marketability of our recyclables, an we hope that this will eventually include single-stream recyclables,” Pickens County said in a statement. “We carefully monitor market conditions, so we will be prepared to shift with the demand. In the meantime, we continue to emphasize the importance of sorting recyclables to create a pure recycle stream and, whenever possible, reducing waste and reusing items that might otherwise go into a landfill.”

According to the National Waste and Recycling Association, at least 25% of recyclable material in single-stream recycling (which includes curbside recycling) ends up in landfills due to contamination.

“This is a nationwide problem – worldwide,” Blondeau said.

“We’re talking about contamination and why vendors aren’t buying and when it comes down to that, unless they come up with a different process to sterilize things, I don’t really know how you would get past that component, because there’s no way for them to sterilize it at a recycling facility,” said resident Shana Madden.

Madden is passionate about recycling. She said she has seen people not recycling correctly, which she believes adds to the problems.

“They throw all of their containers in a container and bring it, but they don’t realize they’re supposed to be taking lids off, or they’re supposed to be rinsing things out,” Madden said. “So, during COVID you saw a lot of that, where people just stopped recycling and it all got thrown away.”

“Obviously, I’d love to see things staying out of the landfill, but if vendors are not buying these products anymore, they’re going to go into the landfill anyway, so it’s just double manpower for the workers here to have to take the products out of the recycle area and throw them away,” Madden said as she prepared to recycle her items.

While the program has been temporarily suspended, Blondeau said there will be a small financial saving during this time.

“There is a small financial savings, just because of the gas of taking the truck around, but we’re reallocating the employees to other types of sanitization activities,” Blondeau said.
“We are not discontinuing it,” Blondeau explained. “We are keeping our equipment and we are maintaining our personnel. We’re just reallocating them to other activities right now. So, we will be able to jump back on it when the market returns.”

“The fuel and everything is just out of hand, probably,” Pete Smith said.  

Blondeau hopes everyone will continue to recycle.

“The message right now is continue to be diligent about recycling,” Blondeau urged. “Make sure you’re separating everything. Bring it to the recycle center, and we’re going to work with whoever we can to make sure the majority of that, or as much as possible we are able to recycle the material.”

According to the city’s website, the city will not be collecting the recycle bins. You can keep the recycling bins in order to take household recycling items to other locations.

Click here to learn more.