In short, the common theme of these articles is that recycling in the United States has stalled, and the situation is dire. How dire is it? Industry executives have argued forcefully that prices for recycling commodities have largely fallen to the point over the past several years that it is not economical for them to process recyclables and market them to largely Asian markets, which have increased their contaminant standards (a.k.a., the “Green Fence”). For those of us in the solid waste industry recommending programs to increase recycling as a means of promoting sustainability, the question now becomes: can recycling pay for itself in 2016?
Markets Are Squeezed—Recycling Crisis
The recycling commodity market has seen ebbs and flows over the past 35 years. The notion that it is the end of the world for recycling suggests that the current market situation fits the Yogi Berra quote, “It is Déjà vu all over again.”