Recycling Programs Losing Money, But Residents Are Still Paying

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Despite the state of the economy, the list of communities with recycling programs is growing in Northeast Texas.

“In the economy in which we find ourselves, the overall demand for materials is down, so there is a corresponding decrease for recyclable materials as well,” says Mike Linder, who works for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which implements recycling programs in communities throughout the state.

According to the Program Director of Curbside Value Partnership Steve Thompson, the financial meltdown is causing community leaders to take a harder look at the necessity of their curbside recycling programs. Photo: Flickr/s.yume

“Texas communities on the whole understand the need and the want to recycle,” says Maia Corbitt, executive director of State of Texas Alliance for Recycling, a nongovernmental advocacy group. Photo: Flickr/s.yume

This decrease in demand for recyclable materials makes it difficult for communities to make up for costs in transporting and collecting recyclables.

Curbside recycling in Longview costs $29,000 extra annually, the difference between the $49,000 paid to city workers to collect and the $17,000 the city would be paying regardless to take the waste directly to the landfill.

According to Linder, despite the extra cost, it’s important that communities everywhere continue to implement and not throw away their recycling programs because waste programs may not generate cash upfront, but it is important for the inherent value of the community.

“When you take recyclable materials and always throw them away, you never have a chance of making money, let alone break money, which a well-run recycling program can do,” he says.

Regardless of monetary value, higher recycling levels result in lower emissions and play a major role in climate change.

“Curbside is one way that anybody can make a difference in greenhouse gases and climate change issues,” says Steve Thompson, program director of Curbside Value Partnership.

In 2008, the U.S. recycled 83 million tons of municipal solid waste, according to the EPA.  This reduced the country’s annual rate of carbon dioxide emissions by 182 million metric tons – comparable to removing the emissions of 33 million passenger cars.

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