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As Vermont Mandate Takes Hold, Market for Recyclables Hits a Trough

As Vermont Mandate Takes Hold, Market for Recyclables Hits a Trough

Who’s going to pay for recycling in the Upper Valley?

The answer used to be, in large part, the markets — public organizations and for-profit companies both worked to suss out the best way to separate cardboard, plastics, and various metals so that those materials could be sold to other profit-driven companies as raw materials for new products.

The model has helped divert thousands of tons of materials from the region’s landfills and brightened the promise of an earth-friendly future.

But now, for a variety of reasons that aren’t likely to change anytime soon, those markets have dried up — there is less demand and more supply of many recyclable materials than at any time in recent memory.

That makes recycling more costly, particularly in Vermont, where a universal recycling law, parts of which took effect last year, is being put to the test.

Take Thetford, a community of about 1,100 households spread out over 44 square miles along the Connecticut River. In small rural communities like Thetford, the relatively low population density make recycling and trash collection particularly inefficient, and therefore costly.

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