JANUARY 2009

Minnesota recycling markets remain viable
Recycling Association of Minnesota indicates New York Times article not applicable to their area

A recent New York Times article from December 8, 2008 regarding the state of national recycling markets offered some interesting national statistics, statistics which, for Minnesota, do not necessarily ring true. The New York Times article is specific to the east coast; Minnesota’s recycling programs have a strong advantage due to their heavier reliance on local markets and much less on global markets that the east and west coast states have. Paper was a focus of the report. In Minnesota, there are two markets for that material: Rock-Tenn in St. Paul and LDI Fibres in Becker, Minnesota. Commodity markets are not doing as well right now as they have in the past; however, we have seen this pattern in the mid-nineties and as with any market, it is cyclical, based on supply and demand.

For most materials, recycling still makes good economic sense; it is still less expensive to recycle versus throwing that material away. This is especially true when considering the benefits to the environment, recycling is still the best option by far. Some other benefits include reduced energy costs, reduced pollution clean-up costs and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. These are all environmental benefits which can be quantified and which adds great value to Minnesota’s recycling infrastructure.

Recycling supports approximately 20,000 jobs in Minnesota and adds $2.98 billion to the state’s economy. The recycling industry in Minnesota is an economic driver — for every single job created by landfill operations, recycling creates five jobs.

While it is true that recyclable commodity prices are down, so are transportation costs, and there is a decline in demand for all materials. These declines will lead to more innovations in collection processes.

It is most important to consider the Minnesota recycling markets in the long-term. When demand is up, prices are good; when demand goes down, prices decrease.

It is simple economics, and it is important to understand the need to ride out the lows with the highs. It is also very important to understand that if something is collected to be recycled, by law it must be recycled. Many companies who collect recyclables are still able to sell them for a competitive price, or some have been warehousing the material until prices are more favorable.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution: When making purchases, choose items made from recycled content, or that have packaging made with recycled content. Whether you are at the grocery store, your favorite discount store, or doing holiday shopping, look for labels that indicate the product or package was made with recycled material. It’s a good chance that what was once in your recycling bin, is now in your shopping cart. That paper, metal or plastic did a great deal of good for the economy and environment along the way.