The Waste Biz: How To Fix The Recycling Business

how do we make the recycling business profitable?

It’s World Environment Day, and no doubt, the topic of recycling will come up if you ย start a conversation on environmental protection. While we’re seeing efforts to collect more recyclable materials around the world, the recycling business is in the midst of an economic crunch. See, the prices for recycled materials are down – in some cases, way down – and recyclers are losing money.

So how can the recycling business become more economically sustainable? That was a big topic at this week’sย WasteExpo 2015 in Las Vegas: at Wednesday’s “Heavy Hitters” panel, CEOs from four major companies discussed (among other topics) the need to reconfigure recycling’s business model. According to Waste360, the idea of shifting from a manufacturing model to a service model came up: “If you go back on how you bid these contracts, you bid a collection fee and assumed commodity prices would take care of processing costs,โ€ [Progressive Waste Solutions CEO Joseph] Quarin explained. โ€œWe have to step in and say, if we are collecting, charge for collection and if we are processing, charge for processing.โ€

Would this make for a more viable recycling industry? Would it protect recyclers from the inevitable swings of material prices (often tied to other commodities, like oil)? Make sure to keep reading – there’s more on this topic – but definitely let us know what you think might work to stabilize recycling economically.

Also from the waste space:

Can sustainability pledges make a difference for recyclers? That’s one topic that came up in this wide-ranging articleย from Plastic News on the economic challenges currently facing the industry. At the most basic level, yes: other businesses committed to purchasing recycled products creates a more stable market. But, asย Scott Saunders, general manager of KW Plastics Recycling Division in Troy, AL, notes “Thereโ€™s always a caveat that if it costs them money that they really donโ€™t go about it wholeheartedly,’ he said about some recycled resin buyers.”

Mattress recycling, on the other hand, looks solid:ย One thing I learned this morning: waste handlers hate mattresses! But, according to WUNC in North Carolina, we throw away about twenty million of them annually. Bob Savino of Greensboro discovered an opportunity among those facts, and his Progressive Recycling is going great guns with mattress recycling. This is just one of a number of “The Business of Reuse” articles published by the public radio station this morning.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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