UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — A University City resident emptied his recycling into the bin labeled "plastics," adding "this is what I have to do to be green."

Municipalities across the country face a similar problem with their recycling programs: the cost of going green is sending their city budget into the red.

"It used to not even be a cost, and now we have to pay for it," Public Works Director Sinan Alpaslan said.

The US has traditionally sold unsorted recyclables to China, but the country banned the practice last year.

Alpaslan and his team are looking into whether University City should relaunch its recycling center — a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) nicknamed "the Murf" — which closed in 2008.

Alpaslan says University City currently pays about $200,000 a year to truck their curbside recycling to a third-party — Republic Services — which then sorts and sells the clean materials. Alpaslan's examining if they can cut out the middleman and turn the green program into gold.

"Instead of paying for [recycling], we can get paid for [recycling]," Alpaslan said.

The study is scheduled to start this summer, funded by a $24,000 grant.