Monday, December 15, 2008

Economic woes hurt going green

The economic crisis has had far-reaching consequences, and now it's even thrown into flux the recycling world. Athens-Clarke County, for quite some time, has been a remarkable model of efficiency when it comes to its recycling efforts. The community has routinely turned a profit, but that won't happen this year.

They just sent out a press release noting that the tonnages for recycling in the community have gone up, but revenues have dropped off. This can be explained by noting that the recycling market has been enjoying remarkable highs, and those highs meant healthy revenues for all.

The market, though, has finally slowed ...

In mid-October, the Asian markets ceased taking recyclables from the United States which has caused a drastic decline in market prices. Needless to say, with production of consumer goods slowing that means less demand, hence lower prices for recyclable materials that provide the raw materials for new products.

As a result, the processing fees for the recycling program will be greater than the revenue brought in.

Via an email exchange, Suki Janssen from the Athens-Clarke County Recycling Division helped explain what this means for users ...

For the remainder of FY09 (fiscal year), we will have to use our new initiative money to pay the processing fees. As of November, we still had revenue coming in (just far less). But December until ?? we are projecting we will have to pay.

We are in the process of doing our FY10 budget and have taken this into account when budgeting for next year. This may mean a reduction in non-traditional recycling programs and other programmatic expenses in the future or (the Mayor and Commission) may have to approve an additional transfer of funds to the Recycling Division from the Landfill Enterprise fund or rate increases to residents. All options will be on the table next year.

Janssen said she is optimistic the global markets for recycling and its products will rebound in due time, but the coming months look to be ones full of some difficult choices. According to statistics provided by the Athens-Clarke County Public Information Office, there are more than 40,000 recycling jobs in Georgia and 50-plus in Athens-Clarke County.


Blogger Adrian said...

The zeal for recycling should always be tempered with the consideration of the goals of recycling in the first place -- conservation of resources. We don't recycle for recycling's sake -- we recycle to reduce the demand for natural resources, reduce energy consumption, and save landfill space. If recycling costs too much or uses too much energy, it is counterproductive and should not be done. The problem is looking at the whole picture to form beneficial policies about recycling.

ACC's report reminds us that the economics and benefits of recycling are always changing, so we should continually revise our recycling policies and habits. It doesn't necessarily follow that recycling is not worthwhile if it burdens a local government because of this falling demand for materials, but we should certainly look into what's going on. We have to balance the possible costs of our recycling programs against the costs of expanding our landfill, for one thing. I hope we don't stop our county's progress in recycling just because of some economic challenges; I hope we figure out how to make it work well.

3:54 PM  

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