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Towns Fear Increasing Costs Could Force Them To Curtail Or Even Cancel Recycling

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Like most people, you probably don't think twice about your recycling once it hits the curb.

You might, however, give it a second though if it's the reason behind an increase in your property taxes.

Whether it's paper, plastics, or aluminum, environmental consultant Wayne DeFeo says recycling is a commodities business. We've been selling our recyclables to countries like China and Thailand for years but recently, all that changed.

"It's not that they're saying they don't want the cans, the bottles, and the paper," DeFeo said. "It's that they don't want the dirty cans, bottles, and paper."

Experts say if it gets to China and it's not 99.5% pure, they'll ship it back to us at our cost. As a result, local recycling plants have to spend more time and money sorting it all out.

"The taxpayers will pay for it," DeFeo said.

Towns are now scrambling to educate the public as to what pure recycling actually means. At the Green Stream Recycling Center on Long Island, President George Bateman says the restrictions are driving them out of business.

"We have minimal places to sell it, and we're being charged to get rid of it," Bateman said.

The plant in Yaphank uses what's known as a single stream recycling process, meaning all the recyclables are thrown out by the consumer together making it nearly impossible to sort up to China's new standards.

Bateman says it's a worldwide problem, not just a Long Island one. From California to New Hampshire, many towns are cancelling or curtailing recycling. Others are warning residents if they don't do a better job sorting, and if they can't find new markets, they'll be charged to dispose of what they used to sell.

The Town of Brookhaven, which used Green Steam Recycling, says it's trying to find new recycling methods with the least detrimental impact to residents. Expert say eventually new domestic markets may emerge for recyclables but until then, some of what you sort may instead end up in a landfill.

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