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Plastic recycling may no longer be cost-effective, and you can blame fracking

Plastic recycling may no longer be cost-effective, and you can blame fracking

Midland Reporter Telegram: Some will pay relatively more for trash pickup

The past couple of years of relatively cheap crude oil and natural gas has upended the industry with the greenest image: recycling.

Yes, it’s still an advantage for many businesses and municipalities to recycle rather than have the junk hauled to a landfill.

But only a few years ago, there was plenty of cash in reselling that trash — paper, plastics and metal — to provide a nice profit for the recycling companies and give money back to the cities and companies producing the waste.

No longer. And if that doesn’t turn around, it may mean some people will pay relatively more for trash pickup than if the market for recycling were better.

The problem is not only about the cheap oil and gas made possible by fracturing in America’s shale fields, and particularly in Texas. It’s also linked to a slump in the world demand for raw materials.

A used plastic water bottle than once might have been turned into a few threads of polyester in a pair of Chinese-made jeans, woven into a carpet or been part of another bottle is now struggling harder to find a new home.

Nationwide, around 200 of more than 7,000 scrap recycling companies have gone belly-up over the past couple of years, said Joe Pickard, chief economist for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Many others have throttled back operations, he said.

“The price volatility makes it really hard for our guys to do business,” he said.

But not impossible.

Read more at Midland Reporter Telegram | Jeffrey Weiss

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