Consumer Education Key in Volatile Recycling Market

With recycling market values falling and operation costs rising, the recycling industry is seeking ways to ride out the market’s ups and downs while continuing to provide this crucial component of municipal waste management.

In a January 4, 2016 Waste Dive article, Chaz Miller, director of policy/advocacy for the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), stated, “Consumers generally toss what they assume is recyclable, without realizing this is not the last step in the process, and this needs to change.” He goes on to say that “to address this, NWRA, Keep America Beautiful, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are partnering to educate the public on what can go into the stream. And these groups say municipalities and haulers should remind people, recycling is not free.”

One contributing factor to the cost of recycling is the rise of single-stream recycling which leads to increased contamination and loss of the unusable recyclables. Contaminated recyclables increase costs for recycling companies because salvageable materials must be removed by hand and cleaned, contaminated materials must be landfilled at a cost, and equipment must be repaired due to contaminants “gumming up” the works.

According to David Biderman, executive director and CEO of SWANA, in a recent Waste 360 article about contamination, “It’s really more important for the individual customer to keep out contaminants. The processing facilities are seeing a substantial amount of non-recycling waste thrown in,… and it costs time to remove that material—thus causing facilities to charge the haulers more. Those rates get passed on to the cities.”

While the recycling industry makes plans to ride out the ups and downs of the market, educating consumers about recycling issues is key to the success of local recycling programs. Residents must understand what can be recycled in their community, how to properly prepare recyclables, and the true costs of recycling. Their understanding of all three are vital to the livelihood of municipal recycling.

For more on information that needs to be shared about recycling, check out the National Recycling Coalition’s recent post.

Photo credit: © | aluxum

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