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What happens to Park City’s post-holiday waste after it's dropped off at Recycle Utah

Recycle Utah

Boxes, styrofoam, wrapping paper and more. Gift giving during the holidays creates a lot of waste. So where does the recycling go after it arrives at Recycle Utah?

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year at Recycle Utah. The nonprofit recycling center accepts 45 different items including hard to recycle things like light bulbs, printer cartridges and electronics.

The center is located on a half-acre lot just behind the Boneyard on Kearns Boulevard and Woodbine Way. And despite its size, Recycle Utah moves close to two-thirds the amount of recycling as Summit County’s entire curbside program.

“Put that into perspective, the curbside recycling program does about 2,900 tons and Recycling Utah does about 2,000 tons,” Recycle Utah Executive Director Carolyn Wawra said. “So the curbside program that picks up from Summit County every other week, we're hovering about a 900 ton difference which isn't a lot, you know, it's a lot for this little mighty recycle center to be matching the entire county curbside program.”

During the holiday season, besides plastic and glass, the majority of the items being dropped off at the recycling center include cardboard, wrapping paper and styrofoam.

The demand for cardboard dries up this time of year, which means Recycle Utah has a difficult time unloading it. A commodity that would usually fetch anywhere from $600 to $1,000 a week during peak season, costs Recycle Utah right now about $1,000 to $2,000 a week to get rid of.

Recycle Utah works with a broker to help get the best price for its collected material. Scott Simar is that broker. He works for Pro Recycling and said when they can find a mill to take Recycle Utah’s cardboard, it’s typically turned into more cardboard.

“The majority of recycled cardboard is made into the corrugate that's in a box that you see come from Amazon or when you purchase from the store,” Simar said. “What they usually do is about 80% of the box is recycled. And usually that's the corrugate inside. The outside layers are usually a virgin or raw material, just because it makes it a lot prettier and more presentable box.”

Cardboard is turned back into cardboard and wrapping paper is recycled into paper. But Simar said not all wrapping paper is recyclable.

“The majority of the wrapping paper is recyclable as a mixed paper,” Simar said. “So it's a lot easier to try and keep with craft style wrapping paper, like brown wrapping paper. Something that you can tell is just paper on itself. No, no, no glitter to it. No foil, no cellophane.”

Ribbons and bows are not recyclable but the styrofoam that encloses many sought after holidays gifts is.

Unlike most curbside recycling programs, Recycle Utah accepts styrofoam. The center has a cold press densifier that chops up and compresses it into styrofoam bricks. The bricks are then shipped off to manufacturers that turn it into other polystyrene products like solo cups, food packing and similar styrofoam packaging.

Like cardboard, styrofoam and all recyclable materials are commodities that fluctuate. The price Recycle Utah can get for these products is based on demand. When demand is low, the nonprofit has to pay to get rid of the community's recyclables.

It’s why Recycle Utah is asking people to drop some money in its donation buckets when they’re dropping off their recyclables this holiday season.

Find more information on Recycle Utah here.

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