Recession takes its toll on the recycling market
For years, Madison, Wis.'s recycling program generated about $1.5 million annually from the sale of recyclable plastic, glass and paper to processors, who sold them to manufacturers around the world. But, in November, the bottom fell out of the recyclable commodities market.
The global recession prompted paper mills, especially those in China and India, to halt production, which caused the price of corrugated paper to fall by 50 percent from August until late November, the price of aluminum cans to be halved, and the price of plastic soda bottles to drop from 20 cents a pound to 5 cents a pound.
Madison's monthly recyclable materials revenue fell from $171,000 in September to $35,000 in November. Now, the city is forecasting recycling revenue to drop at least by half in 2009, and is considering charging residents a solid waste fee to lessen the damage to the city's already cash-strapped budget, says George Dreckmann, Madison's recycling coordinator.
To compensate for the declining prices, some communities are using initiatives to increase recycling participation. To make it easier for residents to recycle, some are switching to a “single-stream” residential curbside system using one bin to collect paper, plastics, metals and glass.
Others, like the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, N.J., are even paying residents with retail vouchers to recycle through a program from New York-based Recycle Bank. Since June, Cherry Hill's recyclables collection has increased 80 percent, from about 125 tons per week to 220 tons per week, says township spokesperson Dan Keashen. “It's been absolutely outstanding,” he says.
Jeff Parrott is a Granger, Ind.-based freelance writer.
AS PAPER PILES UP
- Minimize collection and processing costs
Consider short-term collection contracts
Wait. The recycling market may recover