Recycling centers across the Monadnock Region have struggled over the past year with revenue and storage issues created by a poor recyclable commodities market.
Plastic, glass, and metal recyclables have all diminished in value, Peterborough Recycling Center Manager Scott Bradford said. While getting rid of mixed paper is currently costing the recycling centers money.
“It’s very difficult to schedule pickups for mixed paper right now. We sometimes will sit on two loads at a time,” Bradford said. “We used to get $40 to $85 a ton for mixed paper, right now we are paying about $17.50 to get rid of it, when we are able to move it.”
In the past, Bradford said he was able to schedule a pickup for a load of mixed paper – approximately 22 tons – every four to five weeks, but it now takes almost twice as long, meaning the recycling center needs to find dry places to store the mixed paper.
Most of the recycling market has been severely impacted by China’s decision forbid the importing of 24 different kinds of solid wastes. The ban was imposed at the beginning of 2018.
“The prices are basically in the toilet,” Jaffrey DPW Director Randy Heglin said. “We are still receiving money, but not anywhere near the revenue we used to receive. It’s more waste diversion than anything right now.”
Jaffrey, like other towns in the area, utilizes revenues from recycling to offset operating expenses for their transfer station/recycling centers.
“We are fortunate because we bail everything individually so our commodities are still marketable,” Heglin said. “We are really fortunate that we didn’t go to a single stream system, where the recyclables would be sent to a sorting facility. By doing that, their recyclable market is depressed even more.”
The town of Hancock is working to revise its mandatory recycling and transfer station ordinance via a warrant article this March, something DPW Director Mia Lee said was partially prompted by changes in the recycling market.
“There isn’t really a market for 3-7 plastics anymore,” Lee said. “Although we are now paying for mixed paper, it’s less expensive than putting it in regular household garbage.”
In the wake of the current recycling market, Michael Durgor, Executive Director of the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, said his organization has been telling recycling centers throughout New England two things: get as much storage as you can and sort items as thoroughly as possible.
“A lot of smaller transfer stations sort the materials, and they should get a better price for that,” Durgor said.
Durgor said the Northeast Resource Recovery Association is currently looking at domestic applications for recyclables, as it is believed that the export market will never truly bounce back.
Mixed paper could serve as animal bedding or perhaps biofuel, while glass can be used underneath road paving as a base, Durgor said.
“Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” Durgor said. “The recycling industry is doing one hell of a job trying to keep the environment protected.”
Towns like Wilton are working to hold onto recyclables as long as they can, according to Wilton Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, in order to try to find the best rates.
Wilton’s recycling center serves the towns of Greenville, Lyndeborough, Mason, Temple, and Wilton. Recycling is not currently mandatory at the facility.
Despite reduced recycling rates, Branscombe said the town is taking on an initiative to increase recycling – random bag check days – as the cost and environmental benefits to recycling are still important.
“I will be cutting open bags to see what’s in there and to make sure things are going where they are supposed to, and I hope people start policing others more,” Branscombe said. “The more we recycle, the less fees we have – that’s the key thing.”
Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.