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Demand for recyclables plummets, collection continues at full speed
by Sarah Cooper
Nov 12, 2008 | 962 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Debra Reid - Cindy Felton separates plastics from cardboard at High Desert Recycling in Sparks. The market for recycled cardboard and paper is "pretty dismal" but the metals and plastics markets are still strong, according to High Desert spokesperson Rachel Knight.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Cindy Felton separates plastics from cardboard at High Desert Recycling in Sparks. The market for recycled cardboard and paper is "pretty dismal" but the metals and plastics markets are still strong, according to High Desert spokesperson Rachel Knight.
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Lagging demand for going green with recyclables is sending some local businesses into the red.

Six moths ago, Waste Management could get more than $200 selling a ton of recyclable office paper to a company in China for processing. Now they are getting almost nothing, a company spokesperson said.

"The commodity market is at a standstill," Justin Caporusso, a spokesman for Waste Management, said. "Worldwide we are not able to sell off those commodities as recyclables. … However, we cannot stress enough that we hope everyone continues to recycle."

Caporusso said that despite the dismal market, Waste Management would continue to collect all recyclables and lagging returns on materials would not be passed on to residential customers.

However, Waste Management's collection facility will be buying aluminum cans at a lower price, and some commercial patrons will see their recycling rebates suspended and a $15 fee tacked on to commercial bills starting November 1.

"The rebate is based on the market less our costs to service your containers," Waste Management and Recycle America plant manager Kevin Reilly said, adding that the fee will remain in place for "however long it takes for things to turn things around."

Earth First Recycling in Reno is also feeling the pinch from the lagging recyclables market. Following a sharp drop last week in the demand for used paper, owner James Kuykendall was forced to reduce staff and trim some salaries.

"I would lose money shipping it over there (to California or China)," Kuykendall said. "I am shipping it up north (to Washington state) and barely making minimum."

According to Reilly, and the RecycleNet composite Index, the price of aluminum has dropped from about $2,000 per ton to about $1,200 per ton in the past six months. During that time frame the demand for steel also dropped from about $250 per ton to $10 per ton and cardboard fell from $180 per ton to about $30 per ton.

"Once the markets turn around we will go back to business as normal," Caporusso said. "This is just due to the economy and the market and once that turns around we will (remove the fee)."

After 20 years in the recycling business, Reilly said that he has seen recyclables markets similar to this before, the most recent being in 1995.

Representatives from Sparks-based High Desert Recycling, however, said that current market woes are unprecedented.

"(My boss) has been in the business for more than 35 years and he said this is unlike anything he has ever seen," said Cindy Felton, a sourcing representative from High Desert Recycling.

Felton referenced newspaper articles from The Boston Herald and The San Jose Mercury News, which she is giving to their customers, that also claim that the current market is unlike anything that has happened before.

"There isn't a recycler that I know of that this hasn't effected," Felton said.

In response to the lagging demand, High Desert Recycling is also applying a fee to some of its collections as well as storing some recyclable materials while waiting for prices to go back up.

"The economy is not really chugging along really well which means that people are not buying things," Reilly said, adding that because people are not buying things, foreign markets are not shipping as much, requiring less cardboard and plastic.

According to Kuykendall, some end-buyers of recyclable materials in China would not even accept shipments once they hit Chinese ports.

"It is all a matter of supply and demand," Kuykendall said. "We are the consumers. China, they are the producers now. Because we are the consumers of the world we have all the recyclables. Everything ends up in our dumpsters."

Representatives from both companies said that although they are making less money off recyclables, they will continue to collect just as much as they did before. Caporusso said that if Waste Management cannot sell recyclables to an end user, they will warehouse the items before turning people away.

Kuykendall has not increased his fees, opting rather to cut staff and salaries.

According to Rick Sanchez, Environmental Health Specialist for Washoe County Health District, more than 48,574 tons of paper was collected in 2007 with 32,941 tons of that being cardboard.

The state of Nevada has a voluntary goal to collect 25 percent of the amount of materials that are generated within its various counties. However, the goal is not a mandate and the state loses no funding and pays no fees if the goal is not reached. Last year, the state attained a 21 percent recycling rate, Sanchez said.

For more statistics on local recycling, see the following Web sites:

http://earth911.com/

http://nevadarecycles.gov/

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