Whither Recycling?

For years, environmental do-gooders’ dutiful sorting of newspapers,
aluminum cans, and different colors of glass was so, well, dutiful
that local municipalities couldn’t keep up the pace; pretty soon
stories were cropping up in local newspapers all over the country
about warehouses full of plastic bottles and newsprint awaiting a
reincarnation that would never happen. Adding fuel to the
skepticism, last January the Wall Street Journal ran a
lengthy article that argued that recycling programs cost the
government and taxpayers ‘hundreds of millions of dollars more than
can be recouped by selling the sorted trash.’ By April, Washington
DC suspended its curbside recycling program. And with the
budget-cutting fever that’s sweeping Capitol Hill, it seems certain
that more recycling programs across the country will get the ax.

That’s too bad, since new studies are indicating that recycling
actually makes economic sense. According to World Watch
(July/Aug. 1995) ‘since early 1994, prices for nearly all commonly
collected recyclables have skyrocketed. In San Francisco…the used
paper, plastic, and metals the city picks up from curbs are
bringing in ‘unprecedented revenue’ — allowing the city to
actually reduce household assessments for waste collection and

Nowhere is the ‘unprecedented revenue’ more apparent than in the
price increase for old newspapers, the most common recyclable.
Environmental Action (Summer 1995) reports that prices
jumped to $112 a ton in January of 1995, up from $28 a ton the
previous year, and the current increase in paper prices bodes well
for the future of paper products that use post-consumer waste.

Here on the Web an excellent place to learn more about the
business of recycling is
Recycler’s World.
Functioning as a virtual commodity exchange, this site is full of
information about any recyclable imaginable, from old cars to
exotic metals and leather. Besides being a great resource to learn
more about recycling investment opportunities, the site also houses
an exceptionally thorough database of publications that cover

Original to Utne Reader Online

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