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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Operations Strategy & Management > Waste Management

Recycled Content Hits Economic Downturn

Waste management requires use of recycled content to make it feasible to pick up, sort and reprocess waste paper, steel, etc. It's time to think creatively and long term!

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Because of several factors such as China's slowdown in the global economy, building at a low point, and embryonic industries that are using recyled content, the late 2008 market for recycled paper, steel, etc. is having a hard time.

Maybe we should all campaign for increasing waste content in the products in our own companies, and the companies we buy from -- this will help the sustainable cycle strengthen and prevent what has happened in past decades when recycling, etc. was thrown out with the bathwater.

As of November, 2008... it's reported that the recycled market for

  • Cardboard has dropped by more than 50%,
  • Office paper and commingled containers are way down,
  • Scrap steel has dropped by 80-90%.

This is an acute problem and obviously no one knows how long the recycling and waste management niches are going to be struggling with this situation. What it means for companies is that they won’t be seeing rebate checks for a while and they may well start having to pay more for recycling services.

New Recycling Programs at Companies

The biggest concern is for businesses just now trying to put programs in place. They’re going to take a look at the economic equation of shifting over to recycling and have a hard time understanding why they should be recycling.

Big haulers are very likely to be uninterested in working with small and medium accounts to put recycling in place — no doubt they are losing money on dumpster service systems where they just charge a flat monthly fee for recycling.

Long-term Economic Analysis is Needed

This is a long-term game. We’ve seen this before in the early 90s. The business community needs to coduct proper long-term economic analysis and to work things through on a group level.

This downturn in the recycled content market is potentially very serious. The zest for "green programs" is meeting the realities of the market economy and some folks are going to lose interest at least in recycling if we don’t figure out how to help them properly.

We’ve come too far to let things slip like they did in the 90s.

BASED on a note from David Biddle, Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Council

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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