Palo Alto is Now Keeping More Recyclables in the United States

Published on December 14, 2022

Palo Alto Keeps More Recycled Materials in the US

A successful pilot program recently extended through 2026 will keep more plastic and mixed paper recyclables in the United States, furthering the City’s sustainability and climate action priorities. Recent Council action keeps 100 percent of the City’s mixed paper and mixed rigid plastics within the United States, reducing the possibility of unintended environmental and human health consequences of shipping recyclables internationally.

Cardboard is most of the exported materials that will continue to be sent internationally. Local actions nearly eliminate international shipments of plastics. New contract changes with GreenWaste of Palo Alto (GreenWaste), the City’s garbage hauler, reduce the recyclables sent to be processed internationally from 59 percent to 39 percent.

In Fiscal Year 2023, it is estimated that approximately 3,800 tons of mixed paper and 230 tons of mixed rigid plastic will be sent to domestic processors instead of international markets. Mixed paper will now be sent to a pulp and paper mill in Louisiana to be combined with other wood products and made into paperboard, printing paper, and other paper products will be shipped within the U.S. Mixed rigid plastic will be cleaned and processed and become part of a feedstock for making bits of plastic often called “nurdles,” which are then made into various plastic products at several plants in southern California. Those final products include paint buckets, vehicle parts, and woven plastic items such as upholstery, bags, and rope.

There is an additional cost of $1.2 million annually to continue the domestic recycling program through June 30, 2026.

More Resources

City of Palo Alto Zero Waste

Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Update 

December 12, 2022 Staff Report

GreenWaste of Palo Alto


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