The Waste Biz: A Comprehensive Look At Recycling Industry Woes

what's up with the recycling industry?

So, what’s going on with the recycling industry? We’ve made a number of mentions of the challenges faced by recyclers these days, but really haven’t provided a solid overview. Fortune has, though: Claire Groden’s article from last Friday focuses specifically on Waste Management, but the challenges described certainly aren’t unique to that company. Among the problems recyclers face:

  • Low oil prices: While many of us are celebrating each time we fill up our tank, the low price of oil is hurting plastics recycling. In short, it’s cheaper to make virgin plastic than to recycle.
  • The Chinese economic doldrums: Yep, recycling, like other industries, operates on the global market, and the softening economy in China is part of the problem. The Chinese used to be a major customer for bales of recycled materials, but their weakening economy means they’re not buying nearly as much.
  • The increase of plastics: Plastic recycling isn’t as lucrative to begin with because it requires more sorting and the processing. Lighter weight plastics mean that more space is needed to store and ship the same weight.
  • Single stream:Β The ability to toss all of our recyclables into one bin has increased overall rates of recycling… but it’s also led to more contamination of materials. Furthermore, Β many of us toss items into our bins that may not be recyclable. Contamination slows down the recycling process, so money’s being spent to clean up the stream of materials rather than process it.

The industry claims that it can’t do all the lifting on this: governments, businesses, and families need to do their part to keep the recycling industry healthy. I know frequent commenter Lawernce Kenemore claims that “Big Waste” relies mostly on government contracts for revenue in this space, so they’re only concerned about the viability of the system when it cuts into profits, but I’m interested in hearing other ideas for keeping the recycling industry running well. Share your thoughts with us.

More news from the waste business:

Glass recycling returns to New Orleans: Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, residents of the French Quarter and the Central Business District will have glass pick-up service. Provided byΒ Empire Janitorial Sales & Services of Metairie, the service may also demonstrate the viability of keeping glass as a separate recycling stream. (via Waste Dive)

H&M Celebrates Fashion Recycling Week: The fast fashion company has made solid strides in textile recycling; last week, it launched Fashion Recycling Week in partnership with the London College of Fashion.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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