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What's The State Of Junk Recycling?

Posted by Junk King on Sep 5, 2019 11:46:14 AM



On a personal or household level, junk recycling is a good practice. But on a global scale, there are some problems that need to be solved.

As a nation, the U.S. has been at the forefront of many aspects of recycling and reuse. And our overall junk recycling efforts have gradually increased and improved year after year.

What's Going On In The World Of Junk Recycling

Like other commodities, recycled material - whether that be glass, paper, plastic or metal - is subject to the vagaries of 'supply and demand'. This is typically seen on an individual level in the changing price per pound offered for recycled aluminum cans and plastic bottles. 

But that's just the small tip of a massive recycling iceberg.

Earlier in the decade, for example, the world was experiencing a glut of waste paper products with more material being produced than the demand for new products. When the price per pound for various metals declined in the years leading up to 2016, the demand dropped and massive amounts of reusable metals failed to make it to recovery and recycling facilities.

And now we are entering a new phase of global recycling dynamics.


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The State of Junk Recycling

Currently, there is a crisis of sorts in the U.S. when it comes to the previous recycling process. With the loss of a major market for recycled waste materials, alternatives have been hard to come by. A recent article in The Atlantic explains,

"For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China—tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.

Most are choosing the latter."

What does this mean for the junk recycling industry? That's the $64,000 Question for recyclers.

While there are domestic markets for recyclables, the quality of the materials must be met or there won't be any buyers. And this brings out another frustrating issue: separating waste materials. For example, in the U.S. mixed-paper recycling material is required to be 99 percent clean to be accepted by paper product manufacturers. 

But most facilities struggle to attain a 90 percent clean level. In order to reach an acceptable state of "clean" the materials going into the recyclable mixed paper must be separated much more completely than the majority of processes can provide. Separating waste materials is already a partially-automated, yet labor-intensive process. In order to up the level of clean end-product, the cost involved quickly makes it more expensive that virgin materials.

As a consequence, communities and municipalities are finding themselves saddled with mountains of "unwanted" mixed paper waste. On a personal level, it causes many people to question the viability of even taking the time and effort to separate our household or office recyclable waste, knowing that much of that waste will simply end up back in the general waste stream.

Other recyclable waste products are suffering as well. According to an article at Wired.com,

"China’s National Sword policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century. 

In the year since, China’s plastic imports have plummeted by 99 percent, leading to a major global shift in where and how materials tossed in the recycling bin are being processed."

We've seen the impact of this domestically in the form of bans on plastic products and packaging. The Chinese ban has not affected recycled aluminum and glass as much. However, glass recycling is a hit-and-miss effort in the domestic recycling industry. 

An article at Slate magazine noted that,

"Used glass is a substitute for sand in making new glass, which means it has to be cheaper than sand to pencil out for bottle manufacturers. Sand is very cheap. Because glass weighs so much, it stops being cheap when you have to ship it a long way."

And what about aluminum? The Daily Caller relates a report about the state of aluminum can recycling,

"Used aluminum cans are piling up in scrap yards as the market for aluminum recyclables shrinks in size and profitability, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The price for used aluminum cans tanked 30 percent since the summer of 2018. Aluminum rollers are cutting recycled aluminum from cans out of their business models to prioritize more profitable areas of business.

Old aluminum cans are limited in what aluminum products they can be used in. Car and airplane manufacturers tend to stay away from using aluminum made from recycled cans. Aluminum producers are turning away from the used can market despite facing social pressure to embrace recycling, WSJ reports."

Overall, the state of recycling waste products such as plastic, paper, glass and aluminum is in flux. At the moment, there is a general and significant downturn in demand overall. And it is especially worrisome in regards to plastic and mixed paper materials.


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Where Does That Leave Us With Junk Recycling?

Recycling is still a viable option for junk and waste products. In the vast majority of communities and municipalities, recycling efforts continue, separating household and business waste is still required, and most facilities are still paying for plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

This may change at some point in the near futures, but the more likely outcome is a shifting in trade agreements, innovations in various technologies, and new emerging markets will either restore the previous state of the recycling industry or even improve upon it.

However, consumption is still an issue in most every industrialized nation and this demand drives production of consumer products and their packaging. While recycling serves to reduce the overall need to extract and develop limited raw materials for this production, it also serves to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or other places.

If, however, there was less demand overall, then production would decrease and the overall amount of materials would be less.

The bottom line for all of us on an individual level is to continue with our own efforts at reducing consumption and increasing recycling and reuse practices. 


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Professional Green Junk Removal

Your junk removal partners at Junk King provide efficient, safe and eco-friendly waste disposal services so you don’t need to worry about pick up and green junk removal.

And this usually means junk recycling.

Whether you need our services several times during a clean-up project or just once after it's complete, our hauling professionals will ensure that your business junk is out of your way so that you can get on with the job.

In fact, our team specializes in green junk removal.

We can be at your home or office in mere minutes, so call us today! Our crew is fully insured and well-trained, so you can trust them to get rid of your unwanted items in a professional and courteous fashion.

One of the best things about hiring Junk King is that we recycle a much of the material we pick-up. This is proof of our commitment to being an eco-friendly removal service. If you have questions about what we do or what we believe, give us a call at 1-888-888-JUNK (5865).


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Topics: Recycling, junk recycling, Sustainability, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, metal recycling

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