Frankfort and Franklin County will no longer recycle paper products from households after the City of Lexington announced Tuesday that it is temporarily suspending the recycling of paper products. Both Franklin County and Frankfort solid waste departments haul their recycling collections to the Lexington plant.

In a press release, Lexington officials said the change would go into effect immediately because the outlets that the recycling center sells materials to are accepting only “limited amounts due to an overabundance of material in domestic markets,” said Lexington Commissioner of Environmental Quality and Public Works Nancy Albright. The recycling center cannot store paper products in the long term.

Paper products include newspapers and inserts, magazines, phone books, office and school papers, catalogs and brown paper bags, according to the recycling center’s website.

Both Franklin County Solid Waste Coordinator Blair Hecker and Frankfort Solid Waste Superintendent Byron Roberts said that their departments were not alerted about the change until Tuesday. Franklin County and Frankfort are considered affiliate members who use the Lexington Recycling Center, which serves nine counties in central Kentucky.

Roberts said that Frankfort will stop its curbside collection paper products within the next week, once the city updates its recycling brochure and electronic information. He said that the city will also post updates about recycling on the city’s website and Facebook page, as well as an ad in The State Journal. The city will continue to accept plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum and steel cans, and clean and dry corrugate cardboard boxes.

“We are hoping that this is just a temporary change to the recycle program,” Roberts said. “In the meantime I am looking for other facilities that would take the newspaper/paper products and all material collected curbside in a cost-effective manner for the city.”

Hecker told The State Journal that Franklin County residents should put paper products in the trash can, for now. The county will not accept paper products and is working on new guidelines this week.

Lexington’s press release said that higher standards in China, where a lot of recycled materials are sold, has led to strain on recycling centers in the United States. The recycling center is looking for new outlets for paper.

Hecker said that before 2017, regional recycling centers would send materials to China for use in new manufacturing. Because the United States relied on China to recycle, the U.S. did not invest in recycling infrastructure. In 2017, Chinese markets became so overwhelmed with material from the U.S. that China stopped accepting materials. Hecker said that the goal is eventually for China to get a handle on the current volume of materials and reopen.

“While a necessary move to keep recycling manufacturing running efficiently in the long term, this, in turn, has put a huge strain on our entire nation’s recycling programs,” Hecker said. “We just don’t have the same manufacturing and processing infrastructure that we relied on China for.”

She said that there are some positive effects. Nationally, this situation is forcing the U.S. to look at its own recycling programs and make improvements. New paper mills are projected to open this year, Hecker said.

Hecker said the county is working on distributing information about these guidelines to county residents that will be easy to follow. The county is also working on an outreach program to provide recycling updates as they occur, she said. In the meantime, the county will continue to accept plastic bottles and jugs, aluminum and steel cans, and clean and dry corrugate cardboard boxes.

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