December 8, 2008

Warehouses full of unsaleable recyclables.

And was this not predictable?
“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”...

The downturn offers some insight into the forces behind the recycling boom of recent years. Environmentally conscious consumers have been able to pat themselves on the back and feel good about sorting their recycling and putting it on the curb. But most recycling programs have been driven as much by raw economics as by activism.

Cities and their contractors made recycling easy in part because there was money to be made. Businesses, too — like grocery chains and other retailers — have profited by recycling thousands of tons of materials like cardboard each month.

But the drop in prices has made the profits shrink, or even disappear, undermining one rationale for recycling programs and their costly infrastructure.
Isn't this revisionism? I remember reading all along that recycling was not the economic benefit it was cracked up to be.

41 comments:

Palladian said...

Recycling is Bullshit

About the only thing economically viable for ordinary community recycling is aluminum.

AllenS said...

I recycle everything because I don't have garbage pickup. Aluminum was at 65 cents this past summer and now is down to 25. I guess I'll have to drink more beer to make up the difference.

Bissage said...

Recycled coffee cans are invaluable when it comes to soaking dried paint brushes.

PatCA said...

Let's have a giant bonfire!

TitusLoveLookWhatYouDoneToMe said...

I don't recycle.

Thank you.

mcg said...

I recycle for the economics of it---the more I recycle the smaller a trash can I use, and the less I'm charged for garbage service. Not saying that's good economics for the city or anyone else, but it works for me.

mcg said...

I've also boosted my recycling now that they've moved to "single stream". That is, no sorting. After all, my time is worth something.

Bissage said...

I am very conservation-minded.

I recycle my jokes.

Steve said...

One factor which makes the recycling industry difficult is regulations (e.g. environmental) and local politics which gets all self congratulatory about "recycling rules" but will get NIMBY fever when someone tries build a modern, efficient, plant to recycle things like plastic or metals close to the source.

Palladian said...

"I recycle my jokes."

We've noticed, Wonderful Bissage.

TitusLoveLookWhatYouDoneToMe said...

I have to get my car towed today.

It is a 2008 328xi and it already wouldn't start this weekend.

My car is very expensive. It is black. It is pretty. It has long lines. It is a man magnet. I have done it in my car. One of my friends told me my car smells like cock. The next time he was in it I put deodorizer in it and he told me it smelled like strawberry cock.

I just had to get my car towed. The bitch who drives the subaru with a bumber sticker that says Middlebury Soccer was in a total tizzy because the tow truck driver was blocking the garage. I hate that bitch.

MadisonMan said...

Poor, poor, bitter Palladian.

Palladian said...

You hate Bissage too, MadisonMan! Admit it! Everyone hates Bissage! Even Althouse would hate Bissage if it weren't for the assignations.

Henry said...

Steve wrote: One factor which makes the recycling industry difficult is regulations (e.g. environmental) and local politics which gets all self congratulatory about "recycling rules" but will get NIMBY fever when someone tries build a modern, efficient, plant to recycle things like plastic or metals close to the source.

True. Also true is that in cities and towns in which garbage pickup is a free service, people conserve less and throw away more. In Rhode Island the cities were given a sweetheart deal for landfill costs, so they have no incentive to encourage recycling.

Whether recycling makes sense or not, when the current landfill gets filled up, the voters are going to be smacked with one hell of a bond issue.

mcg said...

A 328xi "very expensive"? Hmm. Yeah, for what you get, maybe.

mcg said...

I've sometimes wondered if the logo for Infiniti was designed by a top.

Theo Boehm said...

Assignations?? What a quaint word, in italics, no less! I think you were thinking of Sir Archy. The problem he has, being dead and all, is that he has no Hope of such a thing, unless it were on a metaphysical plane, in which case we're all on an equal footing. Plus poor Bissage would get distracted by Althouse's rhododendrons if he were to visit her in person. No, that's not the reason Bissage is wonderful. I think it may have something to do with his being funny as hell.

From what I read, Sir Archy and the blogging cockroach are both recycled souls, waiting for another reprocessing into more up-to-date products. I say if a beer can has a chance at another life, why not the rest of us?

mcg said...

Whether recycling makes sense or not, when the current landfill gets filled up, the voters are going to be smacked with one hell of a bond issue.

At least you're identifying the problem for what it is! It is not a space issue; we have plenty of space. It is a development issue.

TitusLoveLookWhatYouDoneToMe said...

Maybe it wasn't really expensive.

It is loaded. I think it cost around 50k. That seems like quite a bit for a car.

Did I say the men and boys love it?

Hi Palladian.

Joe said...

Only a bubble economy where prices have no relation to demand or when governments distort the market through artificial prices will most recycling make sense.

In a related vain, one thing that does irritate me is packaging that is way out of proportion of the thing it contains. (old CD and computer game boxes being prime examples.)

Chris said...

Speaking of cars, apparently there are "warehouses" full of unsaleable ones.

Freeman Hunt said...

It gets on my nerves when someone mentions anything about recycling paper to save trees. That does not save trees. It makes trees less viable as a commercial crop.

garage mahal said...

Recycling is B.S. Isn't that what we have landfills for?

Methadras said...

Palladian said...

Recycling is Bullshit

About the only thing economically viable for ordinary community recycling is aluminum.


Possibly steel and definitely copper. The only difference is that copper thieves are doing more to the recycling of that metal than the actual recycling itself.

Original George said...

I saw a Tonka toy truck in a store a few days ago. It was big, one of those car carriers (the kind that transports new cars to dealerships.)

And it was made out of plastic. It was 100 percent plastic. And it was junk.

When I was lad, Tonka toys were made of steel. Steel. Indestructible. Your children and grandchildren could play with them 50 years later, if they weren't left in the rain to rust.

I bet we return to that era. Less stuff, but better made. I'm tired of buying poorly made furniture, office supplies, clothes, toys, and hardware.

Chris said...

I think you can still get good stuff, it is just very expensive.

Theo Boehm said...

I'm tired of buying poorly made furniture, office supplies, clothes, toys, and hardware.

All of which is now made in China.

But we're "creative" and design it, or...er...maybe not....

Palladian said...

I bought a box of Band-Aid Brand bandages the other day and noticed later that they were made in China. Sigh.

Joe said...

When I was lad, Tonka toys were made of steel.

And corners that could split your skin wide open.

But you're right--try leaning over on a modern Tonka when pushing it and the damn thing collapses!


Cool ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ydmTjUwVpM

Theo Boehm said...

Hell, when my 12- and 14-year-olds were little ones, Tonka toys were made of steel. Some plastic parts, but mostly steel. We still have them.

I guess a lot has changed in the past 10 years.

10ksnooker said...

The enitre scrap market has gone down to zero -- I took a bunch of steel, normally the sure thing to make some money from, the scrap yard didn't want it. Said it cost more to ship than the refiner would pay.

When does the ethanol industry apply for their bailout?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Original George.... this should make you happy. An American company that still makes toy trucks the old fashioned way

My husband really wants the Timber Toter because it is similar to the one his father used to have.

chuckR said...

Recyling is mostly BS but I still have to do it.
I'm considering reducing my recycling footprint by canceling the paper. I didn't say newspaper because by the time they get around to printing it, its not news, its olds. Plus, they want to sneak in opinion and they leave out hard facts that I could use to form my own opinion. For me, this would reduce the volume of recycled material by at least 50%, most of that ads and lifestyle crap/articles.

If Tonka disappoints, try Ertl.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

My husband really wants the Timber Toter because it is similar to the one his father used to have.

I mean similar to the real truck for logging. My husband's father didn't play with toy trucks.. LOL

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blake said...

If I'm not mistaken, that Tonka Truck from the 1980s-era commercial was partly heavy-duty plastic. (The bin.)

I like well-built toys but is there really a whole lot of point to having toys that outlive a child's interest level?

A few perennial gems, sure. But mostly our interests are disposable at that age.

Ralph said...

Fifteen years ago, NC forced its cities into recycling by restricting the growth of their landfills. My town charges us an extra $6/month. Don't let anyone tell you NC has a conservative government--maybe compared to Cuba, or Massachusetts.

Who remembers those glorious days when garbage men actually came up to your house and hauled the cans to the truck for you?

Steven said...

I remember reading all along that recycling was not the economic benefit it was cracked up to be.

On a decades-level analysis, true (aluminum being a major exception, since it's so hard to extract from ore). In the raw materials price bubble of the last couple of years, though, a lot of recycling actually made it into the economically profitable category.

Dogwood said...

I wonder how much habitat was destroyed to make room for the warehouses, that were built out of raw materials ripped from the Earth's bosom, to store the recyclables that were collected in order to save the Earth?

Jennifer said...

Well, crap. My town finally gets curbside recycling going just as the market bottoms out.

My son's Tonka trucks (bought in the last 3 or 4 years) are still metal. Whether or not they're steel I have no idea. But, they've survived a heck of a lot.

Jack Wayne said...

Recycling is only "profitable" as long as government subsidizes it with direct grants or hidden fees. Basically, recycling is feel-good crap for crazies.