Economic Downturn Hurts Recycling Industry


Authored by Jon Mercer in Economy, Environment 
Published on 12-20-2008

Analysts fear there is practically no market for recyclable materials in our current economic situation. Cardboard, plastic, newspapers, and metal are all proving virtually unprofitable for recycling these days, causing a pile-up of many such materials across the nation.

Tons and tons of recyclable materials are beginning to accumulate in warehouses and scrap yards across the country due to the economic recession and the lack of buyers for the products. Some of the recyclers are unwilling to sell their product at today’s rock bottom prices and would rather let them gather dust (and rust) in warehouses until the market bounces back.

In better economic times, these materials would be in high demand for the construction of products like car parts, book covers, and boxes for electronics. However, the current economic crisis has hit the recycling industry especially hard.

Some states are calling on their residents to begin stockpiling their recyclables in the hopes that the prices will rebound and because many recyclers who have state contracts to pick-up the materials are running out of storage space. Although tough times are nothing new for the recycling industry, many say that they didn’t see this current situation coming.

Mixed paper is one of the cornerstones of the recycling industry; but now it is selling for $20 to $25 a ton, which is down from more than $105 in October. Tin is worth only about $5 a ton down from $327 earlier this year. The only recyclable material that seems to have retained its value is glass. This is due to a greater domestic demand.

The main reason for the dramatic decrease in prices for recyclables is that China, who is the largest buyer of exported recyclable materials from the Unites States, has no demand for the products since the economy has slumped. China’s influence on the recycling market is so great that the materials are worth much less in areas where there is lack of access to ports where the materials can be easily exported.

Consumers and businesses alike have found it easy and profitable to recycle materials such as cardboard and aluminum because of demand and profitability. However, the huge drop in profitability has made profits shrink, and this is making it much less attractive for consumers and businesses to spend money on recycling.

No longer are we able to give ourselves a big pat on the back for doing our part to protect the environment, all the while making a nice profit from our efforts.


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