By Heather Schmidt
Yesterday morning, like many of you, I read the Oregonian article about the plummeting recycling markets. Even though recycling is at record levels and a strong infrastructure is in place in Portland, the demand for the materials has fallen surprisingly quickly. The lack of demand for recycled material is tied to the economic downturn affecting factories and manufacturing. At New Seasons Market, we recycle large quantities of various recyclables, from lower grade plastics to cardboard and metal. Most of the recycling collection is from our internal operations, but we also recycle some rigid plastics, plastic bags, and paper bags for our customers.
What does this mean for all of us? We don’t know for sure what will come, but recycling markets have fluctuated many times in the past. There are concerns that, with the current market, recycling will be land filled. Bruce Walker, Solid Waste and Recycling Manager who oversees the residential and commercial recycling program, expressed confidence that land filling will not become necessary (nor is it legal to landfill it), particularly for more viable recyclables. He pointed out that it is more expensive to landfill waste than it is to recycle it at lower market prices.
For now, the material recycling facilities that process recyclables for New Seasons Market are still able to take it. Some of the recyclables are being sold to available markets, some are being processed on site, and others, like niche plastics such as clamshells, are being stockpiled. If the market becomes so unstable that we are no longer confident that our waste is being recycled, we will let our customers know immediately and stop collecting it.
On Thursday, I plan to attend the Association of Oregon Recyclers’ forum in Salem to discuss the recycling market crisis. I will keep you updated as we find out more.