So Is Recycling Dead or Simply Evolving?

The recent spate of articles on recycling go from predicting its death to how new businesses are growing. Well, both are correct in a way. As I have tried to communicate at every presentation or class, and as we have said for many years, recycling is a commodities business….and commodities change in value and in demand…

Recycling is evolving in response to packaging changes as well as behavior changes by consumers. The problem stems in large part from the manufacturing world that markets convenience over sustainability. Rather than think about the long term consequences of a package design, the packaging industry sells for speed and profit.

cardboard recycling

The recycling industry cannot move that fast. New sorting equipment doesn’t appear over night. New markets for these new materials do not evolve over night. Thus, we have always been putting the “cart before the horse.”

The good news is that markets are evolving. As you will note in the NYT article on cardboard recycling and manufacturing, we are seeing capital investments in new manufacturing. We also have companies investing in making pulp and new plastic resin based raw materials starting up in the US and Canada.

The bad news is that packaging companies, although changing, are not changing fast enough….They really need to get back to basics and eliminate the non-recyclable, thus non-sustainable packaging that they are pushing on us as consumers. More importantly, companies that buy packaging need to really understand what they are buying…and insure that it is really recyclable.

We are starting to hear this, but we are not there yet.

Read the full article:
The Great American Cardboard Comeback
Limited free access; NY Times subscription may be required.

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