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Spokane switching to biweekly recycling pickup after program costs increase 100 times over

Costs of the recycling program increased from $14k in 2013 to $1.4 million in 2020, in part due to China's refusal to buy any more recyclables from the U.S.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane's Solid Waste Collections Department will switch to picking up recycling every other week starting the first week of May, according to a release from Spokane's Public Works Director of Strategic Development Marlene Feist. 

The switch will help the city manage rising costs of the recycling program without charging customers more, Feist said. Between 2013 and 2020, the cost to manage the city's recyclables grew from $14,000 to $1.4 million; an increase of 100 times the original cost. 

The city attributes the price rise to a "dramatic drop" in the prices received for selling recyclables. The commodity prices were greatly influenced by China's decision to no longer purchase most recyclables from the U.S. because of high contamination rates. 

The cost has also increased due to more garbage being found in recycling carts, which increases the cost of processing the materials, Feist said. 

The city recommends residents only put items in bins that are empty, clean and dry, as well as making sure items are loose in the cart. If items aren't on the city's list of accepted recyclables, it's recommended they are thrown away. 

Under the new system, customers will continue to receive weekly garbage collection on the same day. Recycling collection will continue on the same day of the week, but will be done every other week instead, Feist said. 

Solid Waste Collections staff are working to finalize the new recycling routes. When the routes are finalized, customers will be able to access a map on the City's website to determine when recycling collection will happen where they live. 

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