So you think all those newspapers, glass bottles, and cardboard boxes you put in the recycle bin are going to be reused…well these quick facts should make you think again:
- Prices for recycled materials like plastics, paper and metals have plunged in the last two months, endangering some programs- The market for recyclables in Oregon and around the globe, riding at or near historic highs a few short months ago, has tanked along with the economy
- Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton and plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents.
- the price for bales of mixed paper has fallen by 90 percent since September
- Prices for plastic bags and other plastic “film” have dropped by two-thirds in less than a month.
- Some of the plastics have fallen from $480 a ton to $40 a ton
- recyclers are loosing money and running out of money
- some recyclables, particularly low-grade bales of plastic and mixed paper, may head to landfills if the economy doesn’t recover.
Faced with a dramatic slump in the recycling market, the director of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority has cut 20 of his 24 employees’ work week to four days from five, shuttered six of the authority’s drop-off stations and is urging residents to hoard their recyclables after informing municipalities with curbside recycling programs that the center will accept only paper until further notice.
Some in the business are describing the downturn as the worst and fastest ever. “It’s never gone from so good to so bad so fast,” said Marty Davis, president of Midland Davis Corp. in Pekin, Ill., who has been in the recycling business since 1975. The turnaround caught everyone off guard, said Steven Kowalsky, president of Empire Recycling in Utica, N.Y.
So what can we do to help our community recycling industries?
- First, consumers can help the recycling industry by creating demand for products with recycled content…for instance purchasing copy paper and Christmas cards made from recycled paper. And toilet paper. Every paper you can…buy recycled.
- Help them during this down market by using/discarding less packaging – called precycling. That means avoid those bottled waters. Reuse containers, bring containers with you when shopping. Whatever you can to avoid actually having to get new containers or toss those used containers. Our thrift store here takes jars with lids. even nicer plastic jars with lids…so that could be an option.
- Compost your torn up paper, or even better shredded paper, even cardboard. Cardboard is one of the favorite treats for worms in your garden. Ever notice that if you put a piece of cardboard out in the garden somewhere, and lift it a few months later, you will see an active worm meeting place.
- Or use your shreds of newspaper in a worm bin. Worms will eventually eat them up. Not a solution for the big paper readers…but something.
- And of course, read online. Check out magazines from the library and donate magazines to waiting rooms and gyms. Just find a way to require less printing and throwing less away.
Lastly, communities to have to rethink this idea of growing recycling capacity without finding a way to require more use of recyclable materials in products.
Requiring policies of all state and federal purchasing of only papers with recycled paper content is a great way to start: buy recycled paper products even tho they are about 8% more. Understand the social and environmental issues involved in the production of virgin paper:
Key impacts during the copy paper lifecycle include: hazardous releases of chlorinated compounds in the pulping process, high volumes of water use and contamination, pungent and toxic air pollutants, high volumes of solid waste, high energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions, and damage to arboreal and aquatic habitats. Energy consumption, emissions, and deforestation related to paper manufacturing contribute directly to the larger issue of global climate change.
And incase you wondered, Peoplepoweredmachines is a nearly a paperless office! And on another sustainable note, we are excited to be moving to green solar powered servers in January.