MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Recycling is good for the environment, and it is also a big business with money made by sending our used paper, plastic, and glass to China.
But with China’s import crackdown on contamination, U.S. recycling plants are being pickier when it comes to what it accepts or packs up all together. Community recycling programs are seeing the impact of this firsthand.
“We’re just very excited with all the use that this gets,” said recycling community partner Madeleine Edwards. “We’re just excited that everyone is recycling.”
She’s talking about Cooper Young’s recycling program. Two giant recycling metal bins located near First Congo in the Cooper Young neighborhood get a lot of use with people dropping off items including paper, bottles and plastics.
“The bins hold one to two tons per container, depending on the material,” said Edwards. “They’re taken to the local about four times a week. They’re being used a lot.”
But being environmentally conscious comes at a price. Each ton costs about $95 at the local plant.
“A lot of people don’t realize that this costs a lot of money to operate when we have to pay transport costs and tipping fees at the plan,” she said.
The company ReCommunity, now owned by Republic Services, was supporting the community program. It recently told community organizers it could no longer foot the bill.
“They’ve given us until the end of March when they will stop the funding.”
Companies used to provide recycling for free, making money by selling recycled items. With global prices for used materials dropping companies are losing money on recycled scrap, therefore they’re pickier on items they take in.
The bottom line is that because it isn’t profitable, recycling programs could fade away. That’s something Cooper Young doesn’t want.
“We’re confident we will find a solution,” said Edwards.
The Cooper Young Recycling Program said it reached out to the City of Memphis for help, seeing if it could take over the program.