A pound of new plastic for soda bottles cost 83 cents at the beginning of this year, whereas the recycled stuff comes to about 72 cents. But plastic is frequently made from oil, and as oil prices have dropped, so has the cost of new polyethylene terephthalate. Oil prices have fallen by more than 50% in less than a year. Now you can get a pound of new PET, as it's known, for 67 cents, so why buy the pricier recycled version? That's the question that's frustrating recycling companies, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Many in the recycling industry are hanging by the skin of their teeth," says a rep for one company.
Many US cities that collect recycling were previously able to sell it to recycling companies, but the price the cities got was linked to commodity prices; now, the cities "are definitely concerned about the possibility that they may have to pay for the materials to be removed," says the president of a New Jersey recycling organization. Things aren't great for recycled paper in the US, either, NPR reports. China, which has few softwood trees, is a big buyer of recycled paper. But thanks to a strong US dollar, China has recently had reason to buy its paper from other countries. "I don't think crisis is too strong of a word in the recycling industry throughout the United States," says a recycling company CEO. (Meanwhile, there are about 700 pieces of plastic in the ocean for every human, a study last year found.)