In 2022, residents in northeast Whatcom County recycled more, in part, thanks to online shopping.
According to statistics from Nooksack Valley Disposal and Recycling, located in Lynden, the site received 629 tons of cardboard in just one year, an almost 10% increase.
Calvin Den Hartog, the general manager of the company, said this is due to an increase in online shopping, in which rural living plays a part.
He said in 2020, people got into a habit of online shopping. In the years following, even as the response to the pandemic has softened, the convenience of online shopping has kept the trend steady.
The number of aluminum cans being recycled has also increased, which could be attributed to the production of craft beers in cans.
The recycling center serves customers in the Lynden, Sumas, Nooksack and Everson areas. Den Hartog said over the last 30 years, recycling has grown from less than 50% to more than 90% among his customers.
In the past several decades, more schools have implemented education about recycling into their curriculum, teaching students the benefits of recycling materials.
“You have more and more residents in Whatcom County where this has been a part of their life since childhood. As they become adults and homeowners, they recycle more than the previous generation,” Den Hartog said.
Most of the growth in recycling has come from organic waste. The average household recycled 937 pounds of organic waste in one year, which includes yard waste, food waste and compost, according to the recycling center.
At the Lynden site, recycling from throughout the county is collected and taken elsewhere for processing.
Den Hartog said it has become increasingly difficult to make money from recycling, in part due to an imbalanced supply and demand. China previously accepted the highest amount of plastic recycling and waste imports but instated a ban in 2017, citing concerns over health and the environment.
Many companies in the U.S. that collected and processed recycling had to pay more to get rid of their supply, as China no longer accepted their waste for cheap prices. And population growth in the county will only increase the output of recycling in the coming years.
“In the last six years, we’ve seen more and more companies in the United States reopen and start recycling again, but there is still more supply of recycling than what there is demand for recycled products,” Den Hartog said.