Demand for recycling up but prices are down

The Kansas City StarFebruary 9, 2009 

Now that you're finally an enthusiastic recycler, putting out your bins each week and congratulating yourself on your Earth-consciousness, it may be about to get much harder.

Some recycling centers have closed, others are endangered, and weekly curbside recycling is threatened in several cities. Fees you pay could be going up, too.

"It's extremely difficult now," said Phelps Murdock, president of Bridging the Gap, which manages recycling centers in the area. "We don't know what is going to happen."

The problem: As the economy nosedived last fall, the global recycling markets went into a free fall, too.

The China recycling markets that take a large portion of the United States' recyclables closed their doors. Fewer people were buying televisions, electronics and other goods, and that meant a sharp decrease in the need for packaging materials, said Ed Skernolis, acting executive director of the National Recycling Coalition.

As a result, prices for recyclables sank like a lead balloon. Take cardboard, for example. In August, it was running as high as $140 a ton, but now it’s as low as $20 a ton.

"When the economy goes south, commodity markets go south," Skernolis said. "It’s all tied together."

Kansas City area residents now are facing higher prices to recycle and fewer places and times to do it.

"Everybody's ox is getting gored," said Murdock of Bridging the Gap, which had five recycling centers but now has three. "There is almost no value to any recycled materials right now."

To read the complete article, visit The Kansas City Star.

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