MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We all like to do our part to help the environment and reduce our waste, and that means separating recyclables from our household garbage.

Demand for commodities like paper, plastic and metals is fueling what some call a crisis, one which you might just see on your garbage bills.

Eureka Recycling takes what you sort and sells it to be reprocessed in the Midwest, but demand for many of commodities is falling.

“The problem was a lot of the material going to China was contaminated with non-recyclable materials,” Eureka Recycling’s Lynn Hoffman said.

Until last spring, China was buying 40 percent of our country’s recycled commodities. So reuse haulers are adjusting garbage bills to defray the extra cost.

While some of that material has found other overseas markets — India, Taiwan, Vietnam — most of that has flooded domestic markets. What’s needed are more domestic markets for recyclables, things like clothing, building materials and furniture.

That’s where consumers can help.

“Buying recycled is really as important as putting the right materials in your recycle containers,” Brita Sailer, of the Recycling Association of Minnesota, said.

Ultimately, Eureka’s Hoffman says less consumption is key.

“We’re not going to recycle our way out of the plastic problem, so we have to think about as consumers using less single-use goods,” Hoffman said.

And leaving less waste behind.

Everyone can help reduce recycling costs. It’s as simple as knowing what’s acceptable. As a general rule, Styrofoam containers and plastic bags should never go in the recycle bin.

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