Recession Has US Recycling Industry in Dumpster

Scrap fetching a fraction of the price it used to—if it's not cheaper to send it to landfills
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2008 8:55 AM CST
Kanawha County, WVa, is no longer accepting aluminum cans and plastics at the Slack Street Recycling Center in Charleston, seen on Nov. 21, 2008.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – With the economy tanking, recyclable material is selling like, well, trash. Mixed paper, which sold for $105 per ton as recently as October, now fetches $20-$25, the New York Times reports. “It’s awful,” said one recycling rep, who says her yard is packed with refuse that can’t be sold. “Either it goes to landfill or it begins to cost us money.”

The decline coincides with a deteriorating economy in China, the biggest export market for US recyclables. Even in an industry accustomed to price swings, many recyclers have responded by limiting what they’ll take, while others are shutting down entirely. “Before, you could be green by being greedy,” said one business professor. “Now, you’ve really got to rely on your notions of civic participation.”