Resource Recycling Magazine: Haulers confront costs of recycling

Haulers confront costs of recycling

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 30, 2015

Following a number of high-profile criticisms of the current recycling landscape, one hauler is making changes to the way it’s charging some customers for the service.

To compensate for declining revenue from sales of recyclable materials, Casella Waste Systems announced it was raising tipping and collection fees in 2015.

Now, it says it has begun tacking a sustainability/recycling adjustment fee onto bills of residential customers with month-to-month service and commercial customers with adjustable contracts. A similar charge is also figured into its longer-term municipal contracts.

The development was first reported by Waste360.

The move is a reflection of major haulers’ efforts to confront the challenges of low prices for recycled commodities, which are pinching recycling operations. Low recycling fees and widespread revenue-sharing deals with communities don’t meet the companies’ needs in today’s economic environment, hauler executives have said. Some say they want municipalities to bear more of the financial risk of recycling.

Waste Management’s CEO, David Steiner, has used the word "crisis" to describe the current conditions.

Others are questioning the industry-wide trend toward single-stream recycling collection, which, they say, reduces recycling values overall because of increased contamination. A recent article in The Washington Post explored issues of contamination and recycling’s profitability.

"The quality limitations and processing costs associated with single-stream collection were masked for a time by booming commodity prices and overseas demand for recyclables," Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, said in a statement. "Today, we face a new reality that is forcing many communities to realize what many in the recycling industry have known for decades: a trade-off exists between convenience and quality."

Joe Fusco, vice president of finance at Casella, is a strong defender of single-stream recycling, according to Waste360. Contamination issues stem from a lack of public outreach and education, he says.

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