Regional recycling association faces plunging prices | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 24 May 2024 12pm

Regional recycling association faces plunging prices

As a global downturn in markets continue, the Drumheller and District Recycling Association is taking action, facing some of the lowest prices for recycled material ever.
Late last fall, prices took a dive in concert with markets around the world. Recycled cardboard, for example, slumped from a value of $75 to $100 per tonne, right down to zero. Despite this, the association will continue to collect recycling, and stockpile it until prices stabilize.“We are still taking these products, but we have had to scale back our budget and even had to layoff a staff member. We are looking at ways of reducing our costs anyway we can,” said Tammi Nygaard operations manager for the Drumheller and District Solid Waste Association.“Cardboard is our biggest commodity, and the most volume we get. This means we have no revenue.”Nygaard says the association will continue its service and is very positive about moving forward.“We are not going back to the public and asking for money, nor are we increasing levees. What we are trying to do is manage it ourselves internally,” she said. She said in November of last year all product prices began to drop. Since then, they were able to dispose of some cardboard at $8 a tonne. This was enough to not cost the association. Other products such as plastic, tin and precious metals (copper, aluminum, brass) have also fallen drastically.“These are commodities, and anything on the commodity stock market has crashed, just like everything else,” she saidThe association has found some stability in newsprint, however. This is because some industries in the United States require a certain percentage of recycled material in their finished product. She says the Drumheller Recycling Association is a part of a group, which includes other recycling associations and the Alberta Recycling Council, lobbying the provincial government to change packaging standards to help create a solid market.“We are looking at lobbying the provincial government for some sort of legislation that says all packaging must have a certain percentage of recycled content,” she said. “That’s the only way we are going to get stability in our marketplace.”A regulated market has worked for some products. Considerations and legislation have been put in place for products such as motor oil, computers and tires, and these continue to move on the market.“Any product that has a stewardship program in place, they are fine,” said Nygaard. "Where the consumer purchases that product, there is a certain amount of money that goes into a fund that covers the recycling of that product. That is the same idea we want to get to with the packaging. We want manufacturers to get more involved, we want the government to pass legislation for recycled content, and then you can see stability. Then we can start recycling at home. The products don’t have to be shipped overseas, and we won’t have to rely so much on overseas markets.”Nygaard recognizes this will be a slow process, and the recycling market has gone through these droughts before. What makes this different is the markets have expanded globally. At the same time, the crash has been felt all over the world. Because the market has become so tight, buyers are very particular about quality. In days past, they would be tolerant of a certain percentage of contaminates. Now, because it is a buyers’ market, they can be choosier. This means more thorough sorting on the part of the association and individual is needed.Nygaard says there are signs the market has hit rock bottom, and may be on a recovery cycle, but this will take some time. With many recycling associations stockpiling product, there is a risk that when prices do start to come back, the market may become saturated, sending prices spiraling again. The Drumheller association is hoping to keep product slowly moving, as not to fall into that trap.The future does look optimistic. The association is strong, and is continuing its expansion of its facility. The association has also expanded the program to serve more rural communities, and has support from partnering municipalities.“It is slowly coming back. They are saying 2009 is going to be rough, but hopefully all the governments and world economies get their stimulus packages working, and get them out there," said Nygaard. "We are optimistic it is going to improve. It will be gradual and it will be a slow return, but it is going to come back.”

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