The value of recyclables


What’s better than getting paid for something you planned to throw away?

Mike OConnell, executive director of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC), would likely answer that question with, “Getting paid more for what you would throw away.”

On Monday, OConnell gave municipal officials a brief tutorial in the economics of trash.

The officials had an incentive to be present and to listen; they would all receive a check representing their share of $740,626 the agency collected for the sale of recyclables last year. Like other commodities, the price paid for recyclables is dependent on the supply and demand.

Paper is a good example of what’s happened to prices in the past year. The price for newsprint has dropped by 31 percent while that for mixed paper is off by 35 percent. Other recyclables, including glass and some metals, also declined in the past year.

The paper issue had us interested, as it seems we are reminded almost weekly to “go paperless.” Banks would prefer digital statements and outlets would have us order online rather than complete catalog forms. And when was the last time you actually sent a letter, other than a birthday or Valentine’s Day card?

And it seems we are constantly being reminded that newspapers are losing circulation and are following the path of the dinosaurs.

If that were the case, one would think there’s less paper and, given the laws of supply and demand, the price of newsprint and mixed paper would be up.

As it turns out, the market laws of supply and demand haven’t been turned upside down. RIRRC is seeing more paper than ever. There’s a flood of paper.

So, how can municipalities get more for recycling?

There’s little that Rhode Island could do on this global stage – there’s no chance of cornering the market on aluminum, for example. Besides, that’s not the game plan.

The answer, as OConnell will say, is to increase the recycling stream. RIRRC has worked to do that with its $17 million investment in its award-winning single stream recycling system. In addition to accepting mixed recyclables, the system has expanded the number of recyclables, especially when it comes to plastics.

Taking recyclables out of the waste stream further reduces municipal tipping fees and prolongs the life of the landfill.

But getting back to paper, let’s not forget what RIRRC handed out Monday – paper checks.

In the case of Warwick, the amount was $79,594.13. That’s not going to affect the tax rate, but it sure helps. With your help and that of world markets, let’s make it more next year.


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Good job Warwick ! May be next year you can reach $100,000. Recycle, recycle, recycle. Saves the environment, is easy to do, and the city gets money !

Tuesday, October 1, 2013