Sunday, February 1, 2009

Curbside Recycling Disaster Looming

The fall of the commodities market due the world financial meltdown has led to the virtual collapse of the value of recyclable materials. Here are two articles in the Montreal Gazette and on CBC News summarizing the sad situation. China, the world's biggest customer for the stuff has stopped buying and the local companies who are buying, are paying a pittance. Companies that signed contracts with the city of Montreal (and everywhere else) are on the verge of collapse and are requesting a huge bailout program.
Picking up recyclables curbside no longer makes any economic or environmental sense. The stuff is practically unsellable and recycling costs are now astromonical compared to the returns. Giving the recycling companies money to survive will not change the basic equation and as long as the commodity market is in the toilet, the stuff will continue to pile up. Officials are scratching their heads. If it costs much less to produce new and with less environmental impact, what's the point of recycling old? When the temporary warehouses now being used to house the overflow become full, the garbage is going to have to be disposed of.
Even in a good economy, curbside recycling doesn't really have a positive impact on the environment or lessen greenhouse emissions, a fact environmentalists refuse to accept. In light of today's market reality, it makes even less sense today. Recycling remains more an act of faith than anything else. Read the excellent article, Recycling is Garbage from the New York Times.

The unpleasant truth is that soon most of the blue box material will end up in landfills. If that comes to pass, will the government have the political will to temporarily stop expensive curbside pickups?

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