Linen n' Things Could Become Cardboard n' Plastic as Recycling Market Dries Up


Images by Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

Lots of people are worried about what to do with all those empty big-box stores in power malls across North America. Here is a solution: Fill them up with recyclables. There doesn't seem to be much else to do with them right now as the bottom has fallen out of the market for old cardboard and plastic. As the New York Times points out:

The scrap market in general is closely tied to economic conditions because demand for some recyclables tracks closely with markets for new products. Cardboard, for instance, turns into the boxes that package electronics, rubber goes to shoe soles, and metal is made into auto parts.

As we noted previously, the recycling business was never about saving the planet or doing the right thing, it was about business. Big, profitable business. The Times writes:

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.

It never did make much sense to collect garbage and ship it to China. Now it is exposed once again as a system where the consumer does the work and the taxpayer pays the bills, all for the convenience and profit of the industries that sell the stuff. It really does prove that recycling is bulls**t.

Now is the time that municipalities and taxpayers should be insisting on producer responsibility and deposits on everything. The amount of waste will go down in a big hurry.

New York Times

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Tags: Recycling | Zero Waste

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