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Paper can still be recycled in some central Kentucky communities

To recycle paper or not to recycle paper — that is the question. I’m sure you have heard that Lexington has stopped accepting paper, but why? And what does that mean for everyone else?

First, we have to understand that recycling, while it feels good to do and is good for the environment, is still a business. So those items that you put in the recycling bin have to be bought by someone who thinks it’s economically beneficial to them to either make them into something new or sell them to someone else.

It’s all about the bottom lin. Recycling is a noble thing to do, but no one wants to lose money in business.

So Lexington stopped recycling paper because currently there is basically no market for it, which means that you can’t sell it for a lot of money. No one wants used paper right now.

Unfortunately this impacts lots of recycling operations beyond Lexington, because a lot of recycling gets sent to Lexington. Areas like Frankfort and Richmond aren’t recycling paper right now because of the Lexington decision.

But it’s unfortunate that all over the news, the message seems to be that a lot of central Kentucky isn’t recycling paper anymore. This has caused a lot of people including myself to start doubting my recycling and wanting to know more about where my recycling goes. Because I’m in central Kentucky, does that mean I can’t recycle paper?

If you are in Lincoln or Boyle counties, you can still recycle paper.

I understand why Lexington stopped taking paper, but at the same time, I don’t. The market for recyclables fluctuates so much that I think it would have made a lot of sense for Lexington to just store the paper until the market for paper came back.

Other recycling centers are shredding and storing paper until there’s a good market for it again. I think telling everyone they can’t recycle paper is confusing. People who are unaffected will think they can’t recycle paper. And if you start recycling paper again, you will have to convince everyone to start doing it again from scratch — the good habits so many people have developed will have disappeared.

The best thing we can do at a time like this is to refuse and reduce. Refuse products that cannot be reused and reduce the amount of one-time-use products you use.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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