Pasco residents used to making a trek to a recycling drop box or center aren't going to see an improvement any time soon.
And they can lay the blame on China for derailing a chance at a curbside recycling program.
What's happening in China also is affecting Richland, even though most of the recyclables residents set out curbside there remain in the United States for reuse.
The U.S. once sent a large percentage of its recyclable material to China.
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That changed Jan. 1. China instituted new rules, banning some materials the United States had been sending for recycling and setting tighter standards that require people to wash out their recyclables.
A single, prohibited glass jar, not rinsed out of tomato sauce and tossed into a curbside recycling container, can break and contaminate an entire batch of recyclables.
"If you are not going to take the time to clean it, please just throw it out because you are contaminating the good recyclable material," said Jay Marlow, Richland solid waste manager.
Demands for cleaner materials have driven up the costs of recycling, which is a deal breaker for the city of Pasco.
The city council has periodically looked at offering curbside recycling to supplement garbage collection.
But it's been discouraged in the past by the cost of curbside recycling, including paying for the extra truck that have to pick up recyclables, said Stan Strebel, Pasco deputy city manager.
It would double the cost of infrastructure for curbside, while the money earned for the value of recyclables constantly fluctuates, Strebel said.
Now the city offers unlimited curbside garbage at no extra charge — which provides no incentive to recycle.
Those were the sorts of factors the council already was considering when it prepared to again consider curbside recycling after the November 2017 elections.
Then came news of China's plans to tighten its regulations, raising the cost of recycling and increasing uncertainty, Strebel said. That led to the city passing on it again.
Richland and Kennewick offer curbside recycling, with Richland residents who sign up for it paying an extra $5.75 a month.
Residents have yet to see the affects of changes in China directly.
In fact, most of the recyclables picked up in both cities are shipped to Spokane, where materials are sorted to be sent to markets within the U.S., rather than overseas.
But changes in China have affected the domestic market.
The city of Richland contracts with Clayton Ward, which then finds another contractor to sort the mixed recyclables left in the blue cans curbside at homes.
Recently they've only found one vendor willing to take and sort Richland's bulk recyclables — Waste Management's Spokane Materials and Recycling Technology center, better known as the SMaRT Center.
Last year, Richland made money from the SMaRT Center for its recyclables, helping offset what it pays Clayton Ward for the initial handling. The SMaRT Center paid Richland about $16 per ton for recyclables
But this year, the cost of processing to higher standards in Spokane means that Richland pays the SMaRT Center to take the recyclables, rather than making money off the transaction.
This spring Richland was paying $122.60 per ton for the SMaRT Center to take about 145 tons of recycling per month.
If recycling costs continue to go up, the city may have to reassess its fees next year.
The SMaRT Center is dealing with "an intensely competitive marketplace" because of changes in China, said Jackie Lang of Waste Management. "Everyone is searching for an end-place market."
The SMaRT Center is fortunate to have longstanding relationships in the domestic market, she said.
But its costs still have increased as it has slowed down its sorting lines and added staff to make sure it provides clean, sorted recyclables.
Residents can help make sure they're helping, not harming, recycling effort by only recycling only clean and allowable materials.