L.A. and Long Beach ports reopen

L.A. and Long Beach ports reopen

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have re-opened after a week-long labor dispute ended today with a tentative agreement between the ports and striking union members.

According a report on NPR, the strike was keeping approximately $1 billion worth of goods from arriving at the ports daily. With very little moving into or out of the largest cargo shipping complex in the country, the dispute also affected export of recyclable commodities. The effects will be most severe for foreign consumers of recyclable materials, such as paper mills, that had low inventories when the strike occurred, as the import flows will have a one-week gap and they may have run out of material to use.

According to numbers from the Port of Los Angeles, the top export commodity in 2009 from the port was paper and paperboard, including recovered paper, exporting 279,867 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). This number was followed by mixed metal scrap at 166,497 TEUs. Plastic resins, including recycled and virgin, were third at 93,242 TEUs.

"There was frustration rather than panic," says Sally Houghton, materials manager at the Plastics Recycling Corporation of California (PRCC), noting that the strike wasn't long enough to seriously damage the plastics recycling industry and many expected it to be resolved relatively quickly.

The two ports in Southern California are the only two that her organization ships recycled PET out of, and she says that the material has been piling up in the ship yards while the dispute unfolded. She says that the PRCC typically ships 20 loads a week — about 40,000 pounds each — split between the two ports.

The 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit walked off the job on Nov. 27, shutting down 10 of the 14 available terminals at the two ports, according to The Los Angeles Times. Their strike was honored by the 10,000 regional members of the union, as well as 20,000 local truckers.  The two ports are responsible for almost 40 percent of all U.S. container imports and the dispute was the longest since a 10-day lockout of longshoremen in 2002 that affected several ports along the West Coast.

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