Today In Surprise

City of Surprise News

Posted on: August 12, 2019

Rising costs amid a volatile recycling market result in changes to city’s collection

sanitation trash truck

Like many communities across the country, the city of Surprise recycling program is struggling to maintain existing service levels amid soaring operational costs.

The city began curbside recycling in 2004 and the revenue generated by the recyclables helped to offset the cost of providing the service. However, since December 2017 the city has incurred growing expenses to the program (nearly $215,000), which we can no longer absorb.                                                                                                                           

Plunging commodity prices for many recyclables and rising costs to process our residential curbside recycling material at a third-party operated recycling center will result in a change to the city’s recycling program.

Effective August 19, 2019, the city of Surprise will temporarily divert recyclable materials to the landfill as the city researches cost-effective solutions to mitigate the impacts of increased recycling operational costs. While this is not an easy decision, it will forgo the need for a rate increase.

In the meantime, the city encourages customers to continue practicing positive recycling behaviors by only putting clean plastic bottles, cardboard, paper and aluminum cans in the blue recycling container.

“While we evaluate cost-effective solutions, we want residents to continue the practice of placing the correct recycling items in the blue bin, so that when we find a solution people will have never changed their habit of separating recyclables from trash,” says Public Works Director Mike Gent.

Keep in mind, Arizona and Maricopa County solid waste regulations require that only unbagged and clean recyclable items be placed in the blue recycling container to avoid container contamination and the attraction of insects and rodents to the container while it is curbside. As always bagged trash must only be placed in the black container. If you choose to throw recyclables in the black container, they must be bagged.

As a result of these changes, the city will close its recycling drop-off location at 13430 W. Westgate Drive.

Waste Management has opened a recycling drop-off location for Surprise residents that will accept select recyclables through the end of the year. Get the details.

Components of the city’s recycling program, including education and inspection will continue as part of the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

Sanitation trucks will pick up both containers on the same day at the same time, using the same truck until further notice. Customers are asked to have their containers out, with wheels to the curb, by 6 am on their designated collection day.

The newly-adopted utility rates that began July 1, 2019, did not anticipate the extreme volatile nature of the market, which has seen drop-off costs increase by 300% from May 2018 ($17,412) – May 2019 ($48,425). The sanitation rate will continue to adhere to the FY2020-2024 rate schedule while the city researches recycling options.

Below are a few Frequently Asked Questions regarding this change in operations:

  1. Can I use my blue container for trash?
    No. Maricopa County Environmental Health Code restricts items placed into the blue bins, to being unbagged, clean, dry, empty recyclables. The intent of these laws is to prevent an increase of disease carrying insects and rodents.

  2. Can I turn my blue container in and get another black trash can?
    The City’s collection permit issued by the Maricopa County Environmental Health Department requires the City provide each household with one black trash container and one blue recycling container, so you cannot turn in your recycling container, but you can request an additional black container (s) at $20.70 per month, per container.

  3. What if I already have two trash containers? Do I still need to keep paying for both?
    Yes. The City’s collection permit issued by the Maricopa County Environmental Health Department requires the City provide each household with one black trash container and one blue recycling container. Any additional containers will cost and additional $20.70 per month, per container.

  4. Can I stop separating my recycling while it is being diverted to the landfill?
    While we hope residents will continue to practice proper recycling habits as we look for better solutions, you can place recyclables inside black containers, along with trash, as long as they are placed in tied plastic bags. Do not place any bagged items, or trash in the blue container.

  5. Why are we diverting recyclables into the landfill?
    Plunging global demand for many recyclables have resulted in rising costs for recyclable drop-offs at third-party operated recycling processing centers nationwide. The city is researching solutions with the intent to resume traditional recycling drop-off practices as soon as economically viable.

  6. Will my current rate lower as a result of this change?
    A. No. If a responsible, viable, and feasible recycling option is not identified, the city would have to go back to twice-a-week trash pick-up per state law. If that change were made today it would result in a mid-budget rate increase of 90-cents per month to $21.60 this Fiscal Year 2020.

    If we maintain existing service levels with recyclables going to a recycling center rates would need to increase immediately by $1.20 per month. In either case the city would also have to review the rate structures for long-term costs.

  7. What options did the city consider before making this change?
    The city looked at maintaining existing service; temporarily diverting recycling to the landfill; and ending recycling.

    If we maintain existing service levels, with recyclables going to a recycling center, rates would need to increase immediately by $1.20 per month. Future costs remain unknown at this time.

    Temporarily diverting curb-side recyclables to the landfill maintains this Fiscal Year’s rate at $20.70 per month (View the Complete Rate 2020-2024 Study).

    Should the city end recycling, we would be required by the state to resume twice a week trash pick-up, resulting in an immediate increase of 90-cents per month this Fiscal Year.

  8. How long is the diversion scheduled?
    The time-period is unknown, but the city is committed to identifying and implementing a responsible recycling solution as soon as one is economically feasible.

  9. What if I want to keep recycling? What do I do? (What options are available to dispose of recyclable items myself?)
    Waste Management has opened a recycling drop-off location for Surprise residents that will accept select recyclables through the end of the year. Get the details.

    Additionally, great alternatives to recycling included reducing waste by choosing items that are bio-degradable or those that can be re-used for other purposes.

  10. What will the city do if I bag my recycling and place it in the blue container?
    The City’s collection permit issued by the Maricopa County Environmental Health Department requires the City inspect items placed in both the blue and black containers to ensure only clean, dry, and empty recyclables are in the blue container, and to ensure all items in the black container are bagged and tied. Inspected containers found to be in violation of Maricopa County Environmental Health Code will be serviced, but tagged with an educational notice describing the violation. Future violations could lead to the containers not being serviced.

  11. Are there other reasons why recyclables may be diverted to the landfill?
    If recycling has been contaminated, the vendor will separate it from the recycling area and add it to the trash loads to be dumped into the landfill. An example of contaminated recycling items can include full jars/cans of food or beverage; greasy pizza boxes; wet cardboard items; and plastic bags. The city’s current recycling contamination rate exceeds 40 percent, meaning that much of our recycling load has been diverted to the landfill and was not recycled. Operational costs are lower when people recycle the proper items, eliminating contamination of the recyclables and the need to move them to the landfill as trash.

If you have additional questions please contact Utility Billing at 623.222.1900 or email

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