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Category Archives: Data Corner

Data Corner: Export vs. domestic processing for post-consumer plastic

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The graph below shows the downstream trends for four major plastic resins collected for recycling in the U.S. and Canada going back to 2009 (the graph stops at 2017 because that is the most recent year for which figures are available).

From 2009 to 2016, the total amount of post-consumer plastic exported to overseas markets from the U.S. and Canada stayed relatively stable, but that number dropped considerably in 2017. That fact is hardly surprising: China stated in 2017 that it was planning to implement its import ban on many grades of recovered material at the outset of 2018, and the announcement itself caused major market shifts.

On the domestic processing front, the total amount climbed steadily before plateauing between 2016 and 2017. With more material needing a home as many Asian markets enact restrictions, opportunity exists for continued domestic processing growth. The keys will be infrastructure improvements to deliver cleaner loads to plastic reclaimers and greater end market demand for the recycled resins.

This month’s Data Corner was produced by More Recycling.

This article appeared in the October 2019 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: How market shifts have hit one municipal program

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In late 2018, officials in the city of Walla Walla, Wash. (population 32,000) issued a report that showed the economics of the city’s single-stream curbside recycling program turned upside down over the course of 18 months.

As the graph below indicates, the city went from earning up to $30 per ton for recyclables in early 2017 to paying as much as $100 per ton a year later. Over the course of 2018, the city’s program lost a total of $130,000.

Walla Walla, which attributed the financial flip primarily to China’s National Sword import policy, has instituted a monthly recycling surcharge on resident bills to help get the program back on solid financial footing. The city’s program collects standard fiber items and plastics Nos. 1 and 2. It does not accept glass.

Data Corner chart, Feb. 2019

Data source: City of Walla Walla, Wash.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: The ramifications of collecting less

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As communities and materials recovery facilities wrestle with challenging markets, some stakeholders are suggesting that programs should accept fewer materials for recycling.

Using EPA data, RRS estimated that removing glass and plastics other than PET and HDPE bottles would reduce the nation’s total tonnage recycled by 8 percent and lower the U.S. recycling rate by at least 2 percentage points.

These findings assume that participation and the materials still accepted would not be impacted, though in reality, program changes can cause confusion that can negatively impact collection of all materials. For perspective, the U.S. recycling rate (not including composting) only increased by 3.3 percentage points between 2005 and 2015.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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Data Corner: Commitments from corporate giants

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RRS tracked the environmental efforts described in the corporate social responsibility reports of the top 50 U.S. companies on the Fortune 500 list. Waste, recycling, energy and greenhouse gas emissions were some of the most common areas for corporate efforts.

Over half of the companies (28) reported on goals or progress metrics related to waste and recycling, though only four mentioned zero waste goals.

Meanwhile, 80 percent (40 companies) cited efforts related to either greenhouse gas reduction or renewable energy.

Data Corner is compiled monthly by recycling consultancy RRS.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Resource Recycling. Subscribe today for access to all print content.

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