GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[GreenYes] Re: are government subsidies going to save recycling?

Title: [GreenYes] Re: are government subsidies going to save recycling?

The other element often overlooked is that recycling's main competitors, WTE and landfilling, are getting increasingly subsidized via assorted support for "making" energy by burning their waste for heat or electricity; or converting it via some other process into a liquid biofuel.  Landfills may also be able to generate carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange by installing methane capture even if they are no required to do so by law.  The energy savings and reduced GHG from reuse and recycling is getting neither the support or the attention that it should.

Doug Koplow

Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02140
Tel:  617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463

This message, and all attachments thereto, is for the designated recipient
only and may contain privileged, proprietary, or otherwise private
information.  If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
immediately and delete the original.  Any other use of the email by you
is prohibited.
>>> Amy Perlmutter <amy@no.address> 12/13/08 11:10 AM >>>
I was surprised to see this message on a clean tech blog.  It clearly 
reflects to me the lack of understanding of recycling and 
environmental issues even among the clean tech community.  My response 
is below it.  The link to the blog is
   Not sure if you need to be registered to use it. But do add your 
voice if you can!

Blog Post:
Are government subsidies going to save recycling?
December 9, 2008 - Casual musings by Emma Ritch, Cleantech Group

The value of materials recovered in the recycling process is 
plummeting alongside oil and other commodities.

Since favorable economics are credited with driving the recycling push 
of recent years (as opposed to eco-conscious consumers), the future of 
recycling is now in question.

The New York Times reports that the price of tin is down from $327 a 
ton earlier this year to about $5. Mixed paper is down from $100 a ton 
to $20 to $25. Glass is an exception, with prices remaining steady.

Prices are dropping because there's no longer a demand for recycled 
materials as the largest customer, China, has pulled back. Some 
collectors are stockpiling the recyclables until prices go back up, 
while others are refusing to accept more plastic and paper. Some are 
even beginning to charge to accept materials that they previously paid 
to obtain.

A new report last week showed that recycling paper and plastic 
consumes more energy and resources than it saves (see Report calls 
recycling a waste of energy). Metals were considered an exception to 
the findings, which suggested trash was better served as a fuel source 
for waste-to-energy plants.

So what does this mean for the businesses that have popped up to 
capitalize on the value of recyclables? It's unclear.

Philadelphia-based RecycleBank, for example, gets paid by 
municipalities to divert trash from a landfill to a recycling center.

If there's no value left in recyclables, will the industry have to 
resort to government subsidies to survive?

My response:

We forget that throwing garbage away is a 100% subsidy, we don't ask 
for garbage systems to pay for themselves, yet some people seem to 
think that recycling has to stand on its own two feet, whatever that 

There are many reports showing that materials reuse is benefits the 
environment. Stop Trashing the Climate is only one of them:

Recyclables are probably the only commodity that can still be used 
even with a negative price, meaning paying someone to take them is 
still cheaper than throwing them in the dump. So these commodities can 
still move in a slow market, as long as there is a use for them.

But despite all the clear environmental and economic reasons to 
recycle, let's ask these questions: who among us wants to live near a 
landfill, garbage incineration plant, strip mine or other extraction 
industry? If the externalities of virgin materials extraction and 
waste disposal were internalized- health impacts of air and water 
pollution, long term monitoring and clean up of landfills, etc- 
recycling would make even more sense economically.  We've seen this 
over and over with many more environmental solutions: if the costs of 
pollution were internalized, you bet clean tech would be farther along.

The drop in primary, as well as secondary, commodity prices means that 
we aren't buying as much stuff.  Hopefully it means we won't be mining 
or throwing away as much stuff, either.

Amy Perlmutter
Perlmutter Associates
23 Avon Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Strategic planning, partnership building, communications, and program 
design for a sustainable future

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "GreenYes" group.
To post to this group, send email to GreenYes@no.address
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to GreenYes+unsubscribe@no.address
For more options, visit this group at

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]