China Policy Change Puts A.F. Recycling Program in Jeopardy

What happens in China can affect American Fork, it turns out, and the City is at a crossroads. A majority of the world’s recycling goes to China because that is where the markets for the material are, and China is a manufacturing giant. But a little over a year ago, China announced it would not continue to take the world’s trash-filled recycling, as it tries to clean up its own environment.

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Curbside recycling is actually too dirty to be recycled in the U.S. And now China is imposing a very low “contamination” level for the recycling it would accept. That level is very difficult to reach as many well-meaning residents include greasy pizza boxes or milk jugs that haven’t been rinsed with recycles.

The new policy has affected the market on a global scale. On a smaller scale, local recycling centers are not able to dispose most of the residents’ plastic, paper and other recycling products. As much as 65% of recycles that are transported to Rocky Mountain Recycling in Salt Lake today cannot be recycled, according to a representative from Republic Services who spoke to American Fork City Tuesday.

Republic Services, a Phoenix-based company that has merged with Allied Waste and operates in American Fork, is not a recycling company but a waste transportation company. It used to earn $35 a ton to bring recycles to centers like Rocky Mountain Recycling; it is now being charged as much as $75 a ton. Many cities across the U.S. have discontinued their recycling programs as a result of the increased cost following China’s policy.

Republic Services is asking American Fork for $60,000 a year to make up for the loss. Out of 7,900 homes in American Fork, over 5400 participate in recycling, a participation rate that has stayed roughly the same in the past decade.

The City was surprised to learn that only 35 to 50% of curbside recycles are actually being recycled due to the high level of contamination and the drop in demand on a global scale. Meanwhile, the city’s cost of its recycling program is going up because the waste transportation company is being charged more.

“We need to be honest with [the residents],” Barbara Christiansen, a member of the city council said to her colleagues Tuesday.

If the City does not want to pay, Republic Services wants the City to change the contract to give the company the freedom to dump recycles at landfills. But that didn’t sit well with members of the council who feel the residents are being deceived.

The City is at a crossroads: It could stop its recycling program altogether—or pass the cost to the 5,400 homes who have signed up for recycles, which could amount to less than two dollars per household per month. Since 2005, residents in A.F. have had curbside recycling available on a voluntary basis, and the City has never increased the fee, which currently stands at $5.40 a month. The City is also considering absorbing a portion of the fees to minimize the impact on the residents’ utility bills.

A New Coach, an Undefeated Season

The Cavemen are undefeated at 14-0 in basketball. They're also the No. 1 team in their class. The head coach is teaching at American Fork for the first time this year.

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But he is far from being inexperienced: After coaching for 10 years in St. George, and the son of a basketball coach himself, Ryan Cuff moved his family to Utah County. The family is now all Cavemen: Mr. Cuff's wife, Lisa, is a counselor at American Fork High School. Their son Tanner is a senior and—naturally—plays on the basketball team while their daughter, Pyper, is a sophomore on the girls team. A third child is in Junior High.

American Fork is preparing to play in the state’s toughest region and will be facing Kearns in Thursday’s final preseason game. Will the Cavemen make it to the state tournament? While they weren't able for the last two years, their new coach remains optimistic. After all, when Mr. Cuff was the head coach of another Utah County team, Lone Peak, in 2000, he won the state championship.

Volunteers maintain American Fork Canyon amid government shutdown

A group of local volunteers decided to meet Saturday morning to take care of the land in American Fork Canyon, as the partial government shutdown entered its fourth week.

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The messages started Friday on Facebook by Lehi resident Brian Twyman: “Planning on heading up the canyon again tomorrow to remove trash and check TP levels,” he wrote. “I also noticed a lot of snow piled in front of many of the bathrooms so am planning on shoveling the walks to make them easier to access.”

Mr. Twyman is a member of an off-roading and outdoor group called B.O.A.R. (Backcountry, Offroad, Adventure, Rally). More people decided to join in, including a youth from American Fork and another from Alpine. Some even drove from Ephraim to help with snow shoveling and restroom cleaning.

Despite the government shutdown and the chilly temperatures, American Fork Canyon is still a popular place for outdoor activities including sledding and hiking. Many visitors thanked the volunteers as they walked or drove by.

American Fork Biology Teacher Begins Antarctica Expedition

An American Fork Jr. High School biology teacher is spending time in Antarctica, where it is currently summer but definitely not warmer than here. Temperatures during the day reach 20 degrees, but winds can exceed 200 miles an hour. “This place is beautiful beyond description,” the teacher, Kevin Dickerson, wrote in his online journal Thursday.

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Flew over McMurdo Sound. Spotted the Coast Guard icebreaker headed towards McMurdo. Orca whales in open ocean. Several groups of seals and penguins. Flew into Many Glaciers Basin where we sampled our P3 experiment for most of the day.

Mr. Dickerson is part of the PolarTREC program, a collaboration between teachers and researchers. With Byron Adams, a BYU biology researcher, he will study for the next few weeks the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in an ice-free region of Antarctica. The overarching goal is to document and understand how ecosystems respond to environmental changes. He will also communicate with several schools while there.

Driver Who Launched Police Chase in American Fork Sentenced

A 21-year-old man who fled from police and rammed a car at an intersection in American Fork, killing one person, was sentenced Tuesday.

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“I do sense that you are remorseful,” Judge Darold McDade said. “Your life is still ahead of you. It’s my hope you’ll make something of that.”

The car chase started in American Fork shortly after a Sheriff’s deputy stopped Trevor Pitcher’s truck for a vehicle registration violation. But Pitcher drove away as the deputy approached the truck, according to court documents.

After a chase along Interstate 15, Pitcher exited the freeway in Lehi and almost hit another vehicle. He then went back to Am. Fork and ran another red light before he crashed at the intersection near 900 W. State St., killing 88-year-old Hal Gadd, who was riding in the passenger seat, and seriously injured his wife, the driver.

The judge sentenced Pitcher to serve consecutive prison time on both charges. After spending 178 days in jail, Pitcher will likely serve another 20 months in prison before his first parole hearing.

“I know there is nothing I can do to take it back,” Pitcher said in court. “There is no word in the dictionary that can explain how bad I feel about it. I’m truly and deeply sorry.”

Fire Hits Sushi Restaurant Koi

A fire broke out inside Koi in American Fork early Wednesday morning, and over 20 firefighters responded. Firefighters said they found smoke coming from the restaurant, a Japanese and Chinese eatery located near 500 North and 900 West.

Firefighters said they were able to quickly control the flames from spreading to the rest of the strip mall. Officials are investigating the cause of the fire and so far, the cost of damage to the restaurant has not yet been determined. No one was injured.

Area Continues to Show Strong Economy

Though some of the recent fluctuations in the stock market are impacting American Fork consumer perceptions, overall current economic conditions in Utah County remain strong, even stronger than in the rest of the Beehive State and the nation.

The unemployment rate for Utah County remained unchanged at 2.9% in November from October, according to the most recent data provided by Utah Department of Workforce Services. But Utah County’s unemployment rate is below the state average of 3.2% and the national average of 3.7% measured in the same period.

Meanwhile, the most recent report from RealtyTrac shows that approximately 7 in every 10,000 homes were in foreclosure in Utah County in November, up from 5 in every 10,000 in October. But in American Fork, that trend is down: The number of properties that received a foreclosure filing in American Fork in November was 43% lower than the previous month and 20% lower than the same time last year.

Another economic trend indicator is the gasoline prices. On average it’s still cheaper to buy gasoline in Utah County than in the rest of the state. The average gas price in Utah last month was at $2.64 a gallon while in Utah County it was at $2.50.