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With price hike, recycling not worth it for some downtown Raleigh residents

April 9, 2019

For many people, tossing empty plastic bottles, glass jars and cardboard into the recycling is routine. But some local housing complexes say recent U.S. tariffs on China are making recycling difficult to maintain.

Recycling is a way of life for most residents of the 400 West community in downtown Raleigh.

“We have three different bins depending on how much you’re throwing away,” said Robbie Rikard, 400 West’s homeowner association president.

At 400 West, cardboard, plastics, paper and glass are all recycled and picked up four times a week.

According to Rikard, the complex pays Waste Industries more than $2,500 each month to haul off the trash and an extra $350 to handle the recyclables.

“This building also pays about $450 per month for Raleigh Recycling Services -- that we can’t use,” Rikard said.

Like homeowners, the city requires those living in apartments to roll their recyclables out to the curb for pickup.

“But obviously, we can’t store 174 rolling bins and roll them out to the street every week,” Rikard explained.

China once imported more than half of the world’s paper and plastic, but due to higher U.S. tariffs, there’s more supply than demand. As a result, Waste Industries is raising their recycling service charge by 30 percent.

Rikard surveyed the residents about paying more.

“So far the response has been that the economics don’t make sense,” Rikard said. “We don’t want to continue recycling. The reality is that most of that stuff we put in that bin ends up in a landfill anyway.”

The decision would end 400 West’s recycling contract with Waste Services but not with the City of Raleigh.

According to Rikard, 400 West is not alone as more apartment complexes continue to become part of Raleigh’s skyline.

“We deserve to have our tax money used to service us as well,” Rikard said.

Rikard said he is interested in speaking to Raleigh city leaders about how apartment complexes can help make the city’s recycling services work better for their residents.