As the municipal recycling industry plunges into 2022, it can be useful to set the stage with a look at the biggest trends and developments of the past 12 months.
The list below shows our top 10 stories from 2021 in ascending order (with the most-read article in the No. 1 position at the bottom). Not surprisingly, market pricing dominates the list, with policy updates, a recyclability lawsuit and more also grabbing attention.
10 | AMERIPEN starts to shift on recycling policy
JAN. 19: A packaging industry group that has traditionally opposed mandated producer funding of recycling may be ready to support that type of legislation, according to the organization’s leader.
9 | Nation’s first packaging EPR bill is signed into law
JULY 13: The governor of Maine signed legislation establishing extended producer responsibility for packaging materials in the state. It was the first bill of its kind to become law in the U.S.
8 | Expert explains why OCC prices are bucking expectations
FEB. 9: The end of 2020 was marked by promising recovered fiber prices. An analyst said that was due to strong domestic and international demand, despite China’s move to cease buying.
7 | New year brings higher prices for recovered commodities
JAN. 12: Prices for curbside recyclables were either up or flat in January, with some key materials seeing surging values. For example, OCC rose 14%.
6 | Paper mills foresee higher OCC prices this year
JUNE 2: Major recovered paper end users anticipated paying more for feedstock in 2021, according to statements from company executives in the spring. Mill operators also shared updates on their recycled fiber capacity expansions.
5 | OCC price increases $20 per ton over the last month
JULY 13: Sellers of recyclable materials continued to enjoy strong markets in July, with virtually all grades of curbside fiber, plastics and metals seeing value boosts from June to July.
4 | How the recycling industry is preparing to tackle solar panels
JUNE 15: In some ways, solar panels present some of the same recycling challenges as old TVs. They carry a high cost to recycle properly, have limited commodity value and contain hazardous metals. At the same time, relatively few downstream processors recycle them, and markets are working against reuse.
3 | COVID-19 fiber shortage drives carton recovery project
MAY 25: A North American mill operator is sourcing multi-layer cartons to make up for a decline in recycled paper tied to pandemic shutdowns.
2 | Prices for most recycled plastics continue to rise
FEB. 16: The first two months of the year were marked by value boosts for recovered PET, HDPE and PP. Fiber grades recovered in curbside programs, however, were flat or slightly down.
1 | TerraCycle and brands sued over recycling claims
JULY 27: A nonprofit environmental organization sued TerraCycle and several major brands, saying the companies are misleading consumers about the recyclability of their products through mail-in collection programs. TerraCycle’s CEO discussed the company’s labeling in an interview.