Monday, September 7, 2015

Dropping oil prices are good, right? Not for recycling

Dropping oil prices are usually good news for most consumers, but the price of oil is so low now, it's actually cheaper to make new plastic bottles than recycle old ones.

NPR reporter Lizzie O'Leary discovers that the  drop "not only means landfills have a few extra tons of plastic bottles on their heaps, but businesses that sell recycled plastic are also feeling the crunch. In the last quarter alone, Waste Management, the largest waste hauler in the U.S., lost $59 million because of lower recycling revenues."

Waste Management CEO David Steiner told O'Leary: "In the history of the recycling markets going back to the early '90s, you've had a couple dips, and they've been very short terms. They're at most two, three months — even in the Great Recession of 2009, we had a dramatic downturn, but it only lasted four months. This is the first time we've seen commodity markets down for, you know, three-plus years.

"Some people might say, 'Well, we're still recycling 25 percent, and maybe that's a good thing.' I don't view that as a good thing, I view that as a crisis. What we're trying to do is to help drive recycling rates up not down. Is it dramatically going to affect the earnings of Waste Management? Absolutely not. From a recycling perspective, from the environment's perspective? I think we're staring down the face of a crisis."  

Listen to the full interview here 

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