Consistency And Quality Drive Recycling Market

In an effort to expand its marketing of recycled materials, Maryland Environmental Services (MES), Annapolis, has named Richard Keller as its chief of recycling. Keller has worked to increase the purchase of recycled products for the past 20 years.

WW: What are the challenges you will face in your new role as recycling chief?

RK: I will be marketing materials from existing and potential MES material recovery facilities (MRFs) in Maryland. Obviously, the challenge will be to ensure that we obtain the best prices for our materials, especially given the market's volatility.

In order to ensure end markets for the finished products that result from our marketing activities, I also will continue to promote the buy recycled programs both in this state and nationwide. The challenge will be to expand the quantity and variety of recycled products being purchased. Although we're doing a good job of buying recycled paper products, we need to expand into other areas.

There are buying recycled opportunities on the horizon: One is to get more recycled products - such as ceiling and floor tiles, carpet, restroom partitions, insulation and wall board - into public and private buildings. Another is to expand other environmental features, such as waste prevention, less toxicity and energy conservation.

WW: Will the government continue to lead buy recycled programs?

RK: Although the government will continue to provide the leadership role, I think the private sector has embraced the buy recycled effort and will embrace expanded programs. In fact, the National Recycling Coalition's (Alexandria, Va.) latest figures show that approximately $10 billion in recycled products are being purchased by the private sector alone.

WW: How will you market MRF materials?

RK: One strategy that we will consider is using the volume of materials from the various facilities to improve the pricing. Obviously, the more material available for the marketplace, the better the prices will be. From an operations standpoint, MES wants to improve the quality of material going into the marketplace, not only at the MRF level, but also by working with local governments to improve material before it reaches the MRF.

WW: How do you increase the demand for products made of recycled materials?

RK: To improve demand for recycled products, we must continue market development efforts, especially at the local level, and we must improve the buy recycled program.

Buy recycled is no longer a policy issue: We buy recycled products. The trick is to get federal, state, local and private agencies to expand these programs' implementation process. That's one of the reasons that MES, in cooperation with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, has been conducting buy recycled training nationwide (See World Wastes, January 1997, page 6).

This training gives purchasing and recycling officials and using agencies the tools they need to expand their buy recycled programs by answering questions such as: How do you change your specifications? How do you do cooperative purchasing? How do you find recycled products that are out there? How do you do good record keeping and evaluation? How do you do waste prevention?

WW: What are some common mistakes made by communities when establishing their recycling programs?

RK: There are some communities that implement recycling programs all at one time, as opposed to phasing in the programs over time. The experience has been, however, that communities that phase in their program neighborhood by neighborhood have been more successful than others. In general, though, I believe that local communities are successful in implementing recycling programs.

WW: What can be done to stabilize recycling markets?

RK: I don't think there's any way for any one individual or agency to stabilize recycling markets because [the products] are market commodities. However, there are ways for state and local governments and private businesses to temper market volatility. Certainly, ensuring that the materials' quality is always sufficient and supply is consistent is important. This way markets can have some security in terms of the volume that they are getting.

Also, we need to improve the buy recycled program so that there are consistent long-term end markets.