Collection is only the first step in the recycling process. To close the loop, materials then need to be processed into a form that allows them to be converted into a reusable product.
As April 22, Earth Day, approaches, all of us tell ourselves we’re doing the right thing when we throw some of our trash in that big blue recycling bin. Albuquerque has had curbside recycling for years, and it stepped up its game in 2013 by adding those blue bins so customers no longer had to bundle up newspapers and package soup cans for pickup.
The convenience of having a large single-stream bin on wheels in every driveway moved tens of thousands of tons headed for the landfill into the annual recycling stream and, in some years, tens of thousands of dollars to the Solid Waste Department. Then, last year, China decided not to buy many kinds of recyclable trash and the United States couldn’t offload this garbage stream as easily.
The price for mixed paper went from $32 a ton in 2017 to $4.69 a ton a year later. Around 2,000 tons of it piled up outside the Friedman Recycling plant in the North Valley. And what was a potential few hundred thousand dollars in revenue for the city became close to a million bucks in expenses.