The Independent reported over the weekend that recycling firms are seeing a huge boost in the value of reused materials as the cost of oil and virgin resources continue to rise.
One Massachusetts area firm noted prices of "$900 a bale for aluminum, $150 a bale for tin cans, $300 for #2 plastic, $70 for cardboard and $40 for mixed paper." Due to the spike in metal prices, recycling firms can see an increase of an extra $100 a ton for metals. These numbers are compounded when recycling firms cart away huge pallets loaded down with piles and piles of recyclables. Why is recycling now such a big deal? Well a variety of reasons are now aligning to make recycling profitable.
"8% of the global oil production is siphoned off to make plastic each year. Recycled plastic, however, requires 80 per cent less energy to product. Recycled aluminum burns up 95 per cent less energy. Recycled iron and steel use 74 per cent less, while paper requires 64 per cent less."
In addition, one ton of recycled aluminum saves an average of $700 in electricity. And the EPA estimates that if recycling levels increased to 35%, it would save almost 2 billion gallons of gas each year.
As the battle over garbage heats up, and it becomes harder to site new landfills either due to NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) or the latest BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything), and as more and more landfills are closing, reuse and recycling will play a bigger role. Wall Street follows where the money is and that now includes following the value of several recycling firms. As the price of virgin materials continues to climb, and it becomes harder to open new landfills, being the company that makes something out of nothing will become a better place to be.
Limitations for recyclers - they still can't get enough of the right kind of garbage and this sort of thing has happened before. In the 70s and 80s, when oil prices climbed, prices for recycled materials followed, but when things slowed down, the recycled market followed. There is concern that the same will happen this time, except that this time is different - the environmental consciousness is way bigger than it ever was and society is more aware of the need to reuse materials. While recycling is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of environmental protection, lets hope the trend towards increasing recycling continues to grow. This is another blending where economics and environment can work together.