Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recycling Costs

I used to take my recyclables to a recycling center that was only open a few hours a week. Volunteers ran the center, and I thought proceeds went to local charities.

But yesterday, this notice appeared in the local paper: "Right now, the city pays $64 a ton to landfill its waste. It pays only 33 cents a ton to send recyclables to the Blue Mountain sorting facility in the Grays Ferry section of the city.

But Streets Commissioner Clarena I.W. Tolson said the market for recyclables was currently low. In the past, when commodity prices were higher, the city has been paid as much as $44 a ton for recyclables - a $108 differential between recycling and landfilling.

In a city with 580,000 tons of waste a year, "those are significant numbers," she said."

So, even though my fleece sweater is made of recycled soda bottles, the sweater company isn't paying all the costs of getting those bottles. And the recycled paper I buy for my printer is subsidized by the city.

Apparently, most people don't understand the importance of recycling, so the city feels the need to bribe residents to recycle by giving them coupons at local businesses if the recycling rate goes up.

I'm already a recycling nut. The city is using this program to talk to my neighbors. So, if my neighbors recycle, then I'll get coupons? Local businesses give out coupons already. Do they think that more coupons will recycle customers?

The mayor is calling this a win-win-win situation. The environment, the citizens, and the local businesses all win. I hope so. But what about the businesses that re-use my recycled paper, plastic, glass, cardboard and cans? What can we do to help people choose these products? And why aren't they paying for the labor that brings them their materials?

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