Phoenix Residential Recycling Collection Up 20% Since COVID-19 Outbreak

By Heather van Blokland
Published: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 7:43am

phoenix recycle bins
Heather van Blokland/KJZZ
Phoenix curbside recycling bins.

Trash and recycling is one of the industries increasing business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trash and recycling trucks are filling up faster and making more trips to the transfer station for drop-offs and to the landfill now that many city residents are working and living at home, increasing city of Phoenix trash collection by 20% since the COVID-19 stay-at-home order began. 

“We’re clearly an essential service. You know, put your paper in there, put your aluminum certainly, nothing in plastic bags — help keep our cost down and help us make good product,” said Joe Giudice, assistant public works director for the city of Phoenix.

In fact, the state of Arizona has raised its limit on the number of pounds that can be hauled per truck. Giudice also says it helps that city streets have much less traffic, allowing waste truck drivers to get to pick-up locations faster and through routes more easily.

The much-needed bump is helping to buffer losses after the recycling industry collapse a few years ago. China stopped importing most used plastic and paper in 2017, upending the global markets for paper and plastic. That sent U.S. cities into a tailspin to try to find new buyers to stay in business.

“The wounds have not healed from a total market perspective and it’s unknown at this point what the impacts of what the health pandemic will be on the recycling markets,” said Giudice.

Giudice says Phoenix is doing better than most, having built its own plastic recycling center.

He says keeping all residential recyclables clean, dry and empty — with nothing wrapped in plastic first — is the most important thing to keep the Phoenix recycling stream moving well.

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