Friday, November 7, 2008

Will Economy Affect Plastics Recycling?

Jim Moriarty recently had a poll on his blog, Oceans, Waves, Beaches that posed the question, "Which is more important, the economy or the environment?" I am not sure what the final outcome was but the last time I looked most votes were overwhelmingly for the environment.

I actually put my vote with the economy. Why? Because I believe the rise and fall of the economy directly affects the well being and success of environmental awareness and programs. Recycling has increased with the advent of curbside pick-up, provided by local governments and private waste companies and they are in it for the profit. Some services are included in public utilities services along with your city taxes, some, like the one I use, require a separate monthly payment.

Quite honestly, I only started recycling when curbside pick-up was made available. It was a pain in the but to gather all of my plastics, glass, aluminum and paper, separate it and then drive it 25 miles to the nearest collection center. That collection center also exists to make a profit.

The Rise Above Plastics Campaign with the help of people like Ximena Waissbluth , in my opinion, is doing a great job of educating individuals on the impacts of plastics on our oceans and beaches. The message of reducing and eventually eliminating one's use of single use plastic bottles and bags even got through to me and I have grown up in an area that the majority of the population is not at all environmentally conscious. That in itself is a huge achievement!

However, I would say that most people I know still rely on recycling their plastic bottles, paper, glass and so on and more have jumped on the bandwagon in the past year or so as the result of a friend starting his own private curbside pick-up service. The first and only one that I know of in the entire Rio Grande Valley. Guess what, he is also in it for a profit and has conveyed to me that the future of the company is in doubt due to the recent global economic downturn. The value of recyclable materials has plummeted along with other commodities such as lumber, steel and oil.

So when he goes out of business, does the increase of people recycling as a result of him go with him? Unfortunately I believe the answer is yes.

I could ramble on more about this and fear that I may have already started to do so. I believe the following article on Times Online may provide a better example of the havoc the economic downturn is having on the world-wide recycling industry instead of my own personal experience.

Recycling Waste Pile Up As Prices Collapse

By Lewis Smith, Environmental Reporter

Thousands of tonnes of rubbish collected from household recycling bins may have to be stored in warehouses and former military bases to save them from being dumped after a collapse in prices.