Phoenix Recycling in Fairview Heights, IL may close

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Phoenix Recycling in Fairview Heights, IL to close

Phoenix Recycling in Fairview Heights, IL is slated to close because there is no market to sell recyclable materials. The southern Illinois business employs people with developmental disabilities.



Phoenix Recycling in Fairview Heights, IL is slated to close because there is no market to sell recyclable materials. The southern Illinois business employs people with developmental disabilities.







A Fairview Heights recycling business, which employs developmentally disabled people and people with traumatic brain injuries, could be closing.

Phoenix Recycling and Shredding has 10 to 12 employees and is scheduled to cease operations at the end of May, unless another solution can be found to help with the financial bottom line.

Executive Director Dave Jaques said the lack of a market for recyclable plastic has led to the decision to close down the center.

“That’s the No. 1 factor,” Jaques said.

Last year, China stopped taking plastic and other recyclable material, leading to a large drop in the market for recycling businesses to send materials.

Municipalities themselves around the country are having to pay more to have recyclables processed by waste collection companies because there are fewer buyers for materials thrown into the recycling bin.

At Phoenix, people are able to bring items such as plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass bottles to recycle for free. When people drive into the warehouse next to Moody Park on Ruby Lane, workers unload materials and place them into marked bins for different types of items.

The separated materials are then packaged together. A broker for Phoenix works to have the material shipped off to different locations and businesses to that use recycled materials.

Jaques said the lack of a market makes it a challenge to stay economically viable.

“There’s been a downturn in the recycling market, where a lot of the materials we collect — the plastic, the paper, aluminum, cardboard — the price has gone down significantly, and in some cases 100 percent,” Jaques said. “It makes it difficult to pay the workers and provide the service we do.”

Jaques added Phoenix receives funding through the state Department of Human Services to help pay for the one to two employees who supervise the workers with developmental disabilities. Ultimately, however, the revenue from the recycled material is needed to pay for the employees.

Phoenix originally planned to close on Sunday, but decided to stay open for another 30 days “to come up with some sort of solution where we could make it more viable,” Jaques said.

New job offers

Labor, the primary expense for Phoenix, costs about $6,000 to $7,000 a month. However, a pallet of material that brought in $5,000 in the past, may only bring in $1,000 now, Jaques said.

Phoenix pays its workers near minimum wage, but some are paid more because they have longevity.

“We can’t make any money, but we have to get out of the business of continuing to lose money,” Jaques said.

Employees with Phoenix estimate each year they keep 1 million pounds of recyclables out of landfills, with an estimated 75 percent of the material coming from people in Fairview Heights, Belleville and Swansea.

The business shares a 20,000-square-foot warehouse with the city of Fairview Heights.

There still will be jobs for those who work at the recycling center, even if it means fewer interactions with community members.

Jaques said he plans to move the employees at the recycling location to is Vintage Support Group location in Fairview Heights, where they can perform assembly work.

They’ll do simple assembly work of mechanical pieces for the construction industry such as fasteners, key chains, or Mardi Gras beads, said Tim Fletcher, director of operations. The items usually usually require two to three steps to assemble.

It will be similar pay, but there will be fewer hours.

“Although the individuals are accepting of that, they really prefer this work,” Jaques said.

Jaques said people have formed relationships with workers at the warehouse and some have given them gifts of winter coats, gloves and cookies during the holidays.

Eric Wilson, of Collinsville, has worked at the recycling location for 12 years.

“I like the people, I like the bosses,” Wilson said. “I like the people who come here, they love us.”

He said the workers at the facility aren’t likely to get jobs at traditional workplaces.

“We need to make money, too. Ain’t nobody going to hire us,” Wilson said.

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referendums.




Original Source

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