Trash And Recycling Not Recession Proof

Trash And Recycling Not Recession Proof
Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 26 january 2009

As the economy goes, so too does our trash and as people tighten their belts and spend fewer dollars, they’re also reusing more and throwing out less.  The LA Times reports on some telling statistics in cities across California: 

Over the last six months, operators at Puente Hills Landfill [in Los Angeles], among the nation’s largest, have noted a 30% decrease in tonnage from neighboring municipalities. The dump used to close at noon because it would reach its daily tonnage limit; now it stays open all day without hitting that mark.

San Francisco is disposing of less in landfills than it has in 30 years. In San Diego, disposal rates at the Miramar Landfill are on track to bring in the lowest total in 15 years.

And while the immediate assumption is that this trend is a boon to the environment, the reality is that the effect is more of a double-edged sword. As commodity prices for recyclables like glass, plastic and paper drop, it becomes less profitable for recycling programs to operate, forcing them to make cutbacks in staff and hours.  As a result, more recyclable material is finding its way to landfills and negatively impacting a state that in 2008 boasted the country’s highest recovery rates, diverting 58% of its garbage from landfills. Still this might spur California – already a leader in environmental efforts – to rethink how it funds recycling and create new innovations in the industry. 

This rate is “definitely going to drop. We don’t know how much,” said Gary Petersen, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s environmental appointee to the board. He added that officials hope to take advantage of the unstable commodities market by building more facilities to reuse trash in the state.

New measures that are important not only to the long term health of our planet, but that of our economy as well, a relationship that appears inextricably linked for the foreseeable future.

LA Times: As the economy slumps, so does trash


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