In a time long, long ago recycling what was considered waste product and had both immense promise and quackiness elements. Immense because we were filling up the Earth with our shit and here was a way to reduce the amount while providing usefulness of waste product. Quackiness because a typical American reaction to anything new was to think it was weird and questionably useful. When the industry started to produce cash results it became more fashionable to root through garbage.
Recycling of what were various waste products to make the bucks became okay and recycling centers sprung up everywhere. The lower and middle class would line up and wait with their bags of cans, bottles, and papers to get a few bucks. Cities got into the act and asked their citizenry to dump the waste product goods in special tubs to be picked up just like any other trash with one essential difference – the bucks flowing out resulted in sales to industry resulting in larger piles of bucks. Eventually the residential and commercial applications, which were funded by the government, found their revenue flat lined. And like all good things of promise the meager bucks translated into bust.
Before this monument us event occurred the zeitgeist of Citizens Dick and Jane was that we recycled, it was just a thing we did. While the industry experience growing pains one factor remains constant. We recycle.
“A four-year decline in the prices manufacturers are willing to pay for recycled materials have proved deadly for many for-profit recycling centers. In part, that’s because it’s a subsidized business. CalRecycle pays up to half of the centers’ operating expenses, depending on the amount of materials they collect, to encourage recycling centers to accept plastic containers alongside the more lucrative aluminum cans. The deposits consumers pay on beverage containers provide an incentive for individuals and companies that do curbside pickup to bring cans and bottles to the centers (and pocket the deposits). But CalRecycle’s payments to the centers are based on scrap prices over the previous 12 months, with a three-month time lag. Which means, when prices are in decline, the payments come up short, and the centers struggle to stay profitable. Statewide, the bulk recyclers have faced a cumulative shortfall of more than $50 million.”
“San Francisco now has just six active recycling centers (down from 35) for 900,000 people.”
“Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), says this has led to a rash of closures. Per her group’s estimates, more than 800 recycling centers have shut down in the past 16 months, unable to compete thanks to the low prices and insufficient subsidies. All told, nearly one-third of California’s recycling centers have gone out of business.”
“The setbacks are costing the state in additional ways: Recycling typically generates $8 million to $9 million in tax revenues annually and results in at least 3,000 full-time jobs. And income from collecting and redeeming recycled materials helps keep scores of desperate people off public assistance. Cities such as San Francisco have been hit particularly hard by the recycling-center closures; the city now has just six active recycling centers, down from 35, for 900,000 people. The vast majority of the city is now an “unserved zone.”
“If the state is serious about reaching its goal, there is plenty of precedent. “We know exactly what needs to happen, it just isn’t happening,” Murray says. In the past, the state has set minimum standards for the amount of recycled content certain goods must contain. Newsprint must be 50 percent post-consumer materials; for glass containers, it’s 35 percent. Such standards also exist in California for electronics and paint.”
“Regulating plastic packaging the same way could have a big impact, Murray says, and would help reverse this troubling course. Legislation requiring producers to buy recycled content could also help. By Murray’s estimation, packaging accounts for 35 percent of the overall waste stream, and companies need to be called to task for their wasteful packaging. Collins, of the CRI, agrees that the state needs urgent, binding legislation, but given the scale of the closures, she’s worried it’s too late to flip the script quickly: “This is a devastating loss to the recycling infrastructure in California.” http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/california-recycling-program-fail