Recent coverage in the mainstream media has referred to domestic recycling as “dysfunctional,” in a state of “crisis” and cites “hundreds” of failing programs across the U.S. And this coverage has caused some angst and hard feelings for many U.S. recyclers who don’t necessarily see it that way.
Chaz Miller, a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry and Waste360 columnist, has responded to some of the latest coverage about the state of recycling in a letter to the editor in The New York Times.
Here is Miller’s letter:
To the Editor:
Re “As Costs Surge, Cities’ Recycling Becomes Refuse” (front page, March 17):
Your recycling story offers a parade of horribles and cites “hundreds” of failing programs. But how about the thousands of programs that continue to successfully collect, process and sell recyclables collected from the curbside?
There have been several market downturns since curbside recycling took off in the late 1980s. This may be the worst, in part because of the expansion of these programs to collect materials such as mixed paper and mixed plastics that never had strong markets. Given unrealistic recycling goals and a failure to properly educate citizens on how to recycle properly, no wonder some programs are struggling.
Yes, recycling is in a rough patch. Yet entrepreneurs are smelling opportunity in these raw materials. Sixteen paper mills in the United States have announced expansions in their capacity to use recycled paper. Seven of these mills specified that they will be using mixed paper as a raw material.
I hope that in your next story on recycling, you will investigate successful programs such as Seattle’s or the one in my home county, Montgomery County, Maryland, and learn what is working.