The State of Recycling

Dumpster with overflowing garbage with caption: State of Recycling

Recycling is in Trouble

Recycling is a challenging business and many recycling facilities are facing an uncertain future. From contaminated materials to dropping resale prices and even complaints about noise from neighbors, more and more facilities are closing down. Find out what this means for the state of recycling going forward.

Contaminated Items

Each recycling facility has different rules around what they will accept. Typically, it comes down to whether they have the equipment to handle specific items and the resale value of the materials. Many recycling facilities employ people to manually sort through items to pull out things that will likely cause a problem.

For instance, disposable plastic bags are generally not accepted, because they will jam the machinery and shut down the operation until the obstruction is manually removed. This is a hassle that costs time and money. In fact, we recently reported on how recycling facilities support plastic bag bans.

Food containers that have not been cleaned and still contain food or residue also need to be removed. In this instance, it is a shame, because items that can be recycled are not simply because they were not rinsed out prior to being tossed into the recycling bin.

Losing Value

The recycling market has experienced a decrease in material values. While prices have rebounded slightly, overall prices today are still lower than what they were in 2011. Recycling is a business, and when business owners fail to turn a profit, maintaining a staff and keeping the business open can become a challenge.

Several factors contribute to the reduced market value. Most of the materials processed at recycling facilities are shipped overseas to places like China, where items are repurposed into new products. In 2013 China enacted restrictions on the types of quantities of materials they will accept. As a result recycling facilities have lost business.

An increase in digital media and a drop in newspaper readership has also played a part in the lower value of reclaimed paper. Print newspapers used to create a high demand for recycled paper, and this is no longer the case.

Noise Concerns

As industrial facilities, recycling centers can create a lot of noise. Recycling facilities may also attract criminals looking to steal and cash in on scrap metal. For nearby businesses and residents this noise and potential theft can be viewed as a disruption and a possible danger. With complaints mounting some recycling facilities have had to close down their operation.

Mixed Messages

Many municipalities are pushing to increase recycling rates. An abundance of litter and near-capacity landfills are often behind these goals. Despite these initiatives, more and more recycling facilities are closing. Without assistance or viable solutions it can be hard for many recycling facilities to continue to operate.

Do Your Part

One solution to streamline the waste stream and help improve sorting from the start are our reusable recycling bags intended for use in apartments and multifamily dwellings. Municipalities and property managers can create their own custom bags that make it clear what types of materials can be tossed in recycling bins.

Many of the issues facing the recycling industry can be addressed through creative solutions. Find out how municipalities and residents can do their part to help resolve the recycling crisis in our next post.


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