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Recycling has a price

Published August 31. 2010 05:00PM

From a theoretic standpoint, we need recycling. Landfills are filling, recycling saves trees and other natural resources, and going green is the only way to go.

However, if it costs more to recycle bottles, cans, and newspaper than disposing them in regular garbage, would you do it? Would you pay if a fee was imposed to put the recyclables in those large, blue bins?

Recycling has become expensive and in some areas, simply not affordable.

Carbon County is one location where recycling is in jeopardy.

In Carbon, the commissioners noted that revenues from recyclables dropped from $110,375 in 2007 to $5,328 two years later a decrease of about $105,000. In addition, the state provided Carbon with $203,404 in 2007 for recycling and not a cent in grants this year. Combined this means the recycling program has $308,404 in less revenues in a mere two years.

The county commissioners said it appears financial shortfalls in the program will amount to $64,125. If a new truck needs to be purchased, the costs for operating the recycling program could multiply many times.

But how do you consciously opt not to recycle?

It's not only the Carbon County Commissioners trying to find a way to salvage the reusing of disposable items. Some municipalities with private trash collection contracts are supposed to receive a percentage of the money the hauler nets on recyclables. They are getting nothing, though, because the garbage firms aren't making any money.

One major recycler in the Lehigh Valley is shutting down because of economics.

Arguably, there's no question recycling must continue for the good of the earth. But can it continue if at the present cost?

At one time, cardboard was purchased by recycling firms for $135 per ton. Today it is less than a fourth of that price.

In California, recycling fees are added into the price of the products. That doesn't assure that the item will be recycled, though.

The Carbon County recycling program has done magnificent things. In 2009, it recycled 11,681 telephone directories. Since 1996, 275,000 phone books were recycled.

Not everyone is conscious about recycling. At some recycling locations, there are problems with every-day garbage being tossed into the bins, making the costs for recycling even higher.

Recycling became big in the 1980s because landfills were becoming filled very quickly, there was new recognition on the environmental effects of recycling, and premium prices were being paid for scrap metals, newspapers, etc. As oil prices were escalating, recycling such things as plastics and even old motor oil seemed only logical.

It appears now though that recycling has lost its luster.

There's no better example of the advantages of recycling than what occurred in the 1930s when much of our scrap metal was sold to Japan, who recycled it into their war machine.

Hopefully, someone will come up with a solution to the recycling dilemma. We can't afford to not recycle. The costs for recycling are huge, but the alternative will, in the long run, be more expensive.

By tossing away our garbage, we could be tossing away our future.

By Ron Gower

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