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Recycle Utah needs you to think outside the cardboard box this season

Plastic bottle recycling
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Recycle Utah saw a decrease of more than 5% in materials it received to be recycled in 2023.

Shopping online is becoming the norm and can be easier than hunting for parking places and products. But this holiday season, Recycle Utah is urging people to think about some of the other costs related to online shopping.

Bags, boxes and styrofoam… oh my… After all the presents have been opened, where does all of the wrapping and packaging go?

For those who live in Park City, the answer for many is Recycle Utah. Carolyn Wawra, executive director of Recycle Utah, said this time of year they get as many as 12 tons of cardboard every two weeks.

FULL INTERVIEW: Recycle Utah on how to help this holiday season

And while cardboard is recyclable, this time of year demand is low, which means Recycle Utah has to pay to get rid of it.

“Let's think of a company like Amazon. They need a ton of cardboard to get through this time of year, you know, they need to have all the cardboard they need for Black Friday sales,” Wawra said. “People are ending up with four boxes on their doorstep. Amazon's got to be prepared to have all the cardboard you need for an online ordering time like right now. So cardboard, Amazon buys other cardboard in July.”

Recyclables are commodities and like all commodities, prices fluctuate based on supply and demand. Since there is no demand for cardboard right now, Wawra said Recycle Utah must pay to ship it to a paper mill or pay a broker to hold onto it until demand increases.

“It does cost us between $1,000 to $2,000 a week to play in this cardboard game and get our cardboard recycled right now," Wawra said. "Again, paying somebody that has more storage space to store it until they do need to make more cardboard.”

KPCW spoke with Recycle Utah’s broker, Scott Simar of Pro Recycling, about the true costs of recycling.

“Everything has to be transported, everything has to be handled, everything has to be made sure that there's not contaminant with it. So there's a process to looking through things, there's a process to sorting things,” Simar said. “Yeah, there is money to be made in it. But it's not, you know, especially when things go upside down like it is currently, it doesn't even pay for itself to get to the mill.”

As the non-profit deals with the seasonal packaging glut, Wawra encourages locals to think outside the cardboard box.

“Support our local businesses, shop local, you don't even need a bag, nothing comes in cardboard. That's a good way to go,” Wawra said. “Gift experiences, gift gift certificates. There's lots of cool things you can do that kind of do not rely on the cardboard shopping as much. But if online shopping is easy for you, bring your cardboard to us just give us a donation to help us get through this time.”

Recycle Utah takes other byproducts of the gift-giving season. People can drop off styrofoam as well as wrapping paper as long as it doesn’t have a metallic backing or too much glitter. Ribbons and bows cannot be recycled.

Recycle Utah
Monday - Saturday: 8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
It is closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

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