Recycling Becomes an Economic Liability

Due to consumers cutting back, the global market for recyclables has collapsed and even begun to cost some cities' recycling programs.
January 15, 2009, 9am PST | Judy Chang
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"Mountains of paper are now piling up in warehouses across the US. A handful of recyclers have already gone out of business. If prices don't rebound soon, taxpayers could see their recycling bills increase as cities decide to follow Fountain Inn's lead and cut back their recycling programs – once a reliable revenue source – or start paying to keep them. "

"Still, there's some optimism that the current crisis will be short-lived. Cities can expect less revenue from its recycling operations, but recycling won't simply disappear, says Jorge Santiesteban, solid resources manager for the city of Los Angeles.

In the short term, domestic recyclers can recoup some losses by charging higher collection fees – as Fountain Inn did. And most large cities negotiate long-term contracts with minimum prices to keep revenue flowing.

Some states are mulling systemic changes, like requiring domestic producers to use more recycled material in their products. In California, says Mr Santiesteban, there is an awareness that "the infrastructure has to be rebuilt" to make it less reliant on the export market. "

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Published on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 in The Christian Science Monitor
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