© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Many Kansas City residents think their recycling goes to landfills, but here’s what really happens

Ways To Subscribe
GFL is one of the recycling facilities that serves the Kansas City area. GFL employees manually separate recycling materials from a conveyer belt at the GFL Materials Recovery Facility on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Harrisonville, Missouri.
Emily Curiel
/
Kansas City Star
GFL is one of the recycling facilities that serves the Kansas City area. GFL employees manually separate recycling materials from a conveyer belt at the GFL Materials Recovery Facility on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Harrisonville, Missouri.

Many Kansas City metro residents are still not convinced that what put into their recycle bins ends up actually recycled. According to the Department of Public Works, this lack of confidence is one of the reasons why usage of recycling services has declined in recent years.

About 80% of what is sent to Kansas City’s two area recycling centers is able to be recycled, according to an article published in the Kansas City Star.

Natalie Wallington, a service reporter with the Star, wrote the article after visiting the facilities in an effort to learn more about what materials are actually able to be recycled at them.

“Most of those things [that can’t be recycled] are going to be food, diapers, sports equipment, you know, crazy stuff that wouldn't have been recyclable anyway," Wallington says.

Another reason why some viable materials are not recycled is because of changes in what materials recycling facilities are able to sell after processing.

“Markets change over time,” says Matt Riggs, an environmental planner with MARC’s solid waste division. “Over the last several months we've been hearing, ‘We're going to be taking a lot less than what we used to.’”

Riggs says that these market changes primarily affect plastic recyclables. While MARC is working to update its ReycleSpot website, which offers guidance on what Kansas City recycling facilities will accept, residents should mainly be recycling plastic items like bottles and bins.

“In terms of your curbside collection, if it's a bottle, like a pop bottle, a milk jug, a detergent bottle, or if it's a tub, like sour cream, butter, yogurt... it's recyclable,” says Riggs. “It also needs to be cleaned, but not perfectly.”

Both Wallington and Riggs stressed that one of the biggest issues with item becoming unusable was due to food or beverage waste contaminating the item.

Stay Connected
When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As KCUR’s Community Engagement Producer, I help welcome our audiences into the newsroom, and bring our journalism out into the communities we serve. Many people feel overlooked or misperceived by the media, and KCUR needs to do everything we can to cover and empower the diverse communities that make up the Kansas City metro — especially the ones who don’t know us in the first place. My work takes the form of reporting stories, holding community events, and bringing what I’ve learned back to Up To Date and the rest of KCUR.

What should KCUR be talking about? Who should we be talking to? Let me know. You can email me at zjperez@kcur.org or message me on Twitter at @zach_pepez.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.