Where curbside recycling programs have stopped in the US
U.S. curbside recycling programs have been under serious pressure in recent years, following international commodity market changes and pandemic effects.
In recent years, the narrative of recycling in free fall has led some officials to cite anywhere from 300 to 3,000 cancellations. While the effects have been widespread, as Waste Dive documented for two years with its 50 state tracker, the number of cancelations is less dramatic and represents a small share of the thousands of active curbside programs. Since 2018, more than 100 have been ended or paused. Additional changes to drop-off programs have also occurred, but are harder to quantify.
The vast majority of areas with residential curbside changes are small cities and towns. Some have also occurred in cities with populations of more than 100,000 – such as Surprise, Arizona; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Jackson, Mississippi – as well as major cities like Cleveland.
Given the shakeup in commodity pricing and contract structures, cost pressures were the primary reason cited for program changes by far. In multiple cases, local governments or service providers also saw related disruptions due to regional MRF closures or other vendor changes. Further budget and operational pressures related to the COVID-19 pandemic – along with longer-running contamination and participation issues – also compounded these financial challenges in multiple cases.
After initially publishing this list in December 2019 – and adding to it regularly throughout 2020 – Waste Dive undertook a full review last fall. This updated list specifically focuses on municipalities where curbside recycling programs have been canceled, suspended, paused or otherwise stopped in a long-term manner with no comparable replacement. Programs that continue to collect recyclables in separate containers, but send them directly to disposal, are also included.
Programs that were paused due to COVID-19 operational issues with no planned resumption date have been noted with an asterisk.
This list is based on Waste Dive’s reporting, outside media coverage, local government information and internal tracking from The Recycling Partnership. Newest additions are denoted in bold. We welcome questions, updates or clarifications at firstname.lastname@example.org.