With the recent economic downturn, recyclable materials (plastics, cardboard and scrap metal) are not being purchased by waste manufacturers. The price and demand for these products has severely dropped, so many waste organizations are left with growing piles of paper, plastic and metals.
By December 2008, the term “the trash has crashed” was printed in The New York Times, detailing the dropped price of recyclables. For instance, by the end of 2008 the price of mixed paper on the West coast was about $20-$25 per ton, even though the same amount sold for about $105 only a month before. Also, the price of tin dropped 98% over the course of 2008.
It used to be that China would buy plastics and scrap metal the U.S. did not accept for recycling (usually plastic containers numbered three, four, five and six) to make goods like toys, car parts and kitchen ware. But since the entire world is feeling the economic pinch, little is being manufactured, because no one is buying.
So where have all the plastics, metals and paper gone? I hope they are in storage somewhere in the U.S., however, storage does get expensive. A recycling operator in Candia, N.H. explained his dilemma, “We’re just trying to stockpile everything. When we get to the point where we don’t have storage anymore here or in our trailers, we have to get rid of it.” However, he said the “getting rid of it” does not mean burying the recyclables in a landfill, because it’s actually cheaper, as of now, to “hoard” the materials.
Whole Foods has implemented a new plastics drive to help the U.S. properly dispose of it’s reusable, number five plastics.
Nearly 80 stores in the Midwest, Northeast and Northern California are piloting “Gimme 5,” a recycling program powered by Preserve, a manufacturer of 100% recycled home products. Participating stores collect number five plastics from shoppers and ship them to Preserve’s manufacturing plant, where the materials are used to make household products such as toothbrushes and kitchenware.
Where do you think recyclables should go?