Realities of Recycling

Contamination: Current national rate is 15-16 %-that’s mostly due to incorrect items being placed in bins. Each percent decrease represents $1 million in savings to MRFs (Recycling Processors). So, Recycle Right—always follow directions provided by your hauler/collector and when in doubt, ask! Don’t assume things are recyclable.

Cost & Markets: Collection of recycling has costs-trucks, fuel, labor, insurance, and more! Recycling markets are not constant—they fluctuate based on many economic factors-so when markets are recessed the materials have a lower value. Generally the cost of comprehensive recycling is less than landfilling (and in Georgia we have relatively low landfill fees). Contaminants lower the value and increase costs for all.

Evolving Ton: Today we see less paper due to digital technology, but more corrugated because of increased online shopping. Plus light weighting of aluminum cans and plastic bottles has lowered the overall volume. With these and other changes a ton of recycled materials looks very different from 5 or 10 years ago and has a generally lower value per ton. A good example of this is in the electronics area—remember all the gadgets you used to have that are now all possible to accomplish via a smart phone or tablet!

Why is Recycling Important?

Recycling is good for business; it reduces costs, conserves energy and supports sustainable practices Recycling helps to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas pollution driving climate change-Recycling creates jobs and communities are investing in recycling for that reason. Low commodity prices are not a sign that recycling isn’t worth it- don’t negate the long term economic, social and environmental benefits of conserving natural resources like water Recycling significantly extends the life of many materials, sometimes indefinitely as is the case with aluminum. The reality is that recycling in the United States is a vibrant activity and a key driver in domestic and global manufacturing, supplying more than 130 million tons annually of scrap metals, paper, electronics, plastics, rubber, glass, and textiles for manufacture into new products.

Domestically, the scrap recycling industry directly and indirectly supported more than 470,000 well-paying jobs while generating nearly $106 billion in economic activity and $11.2 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue in 2015.
ISRI, Oct 2015

 Why is Recycling Important in Georgia?
  • Ga has the second largest infrastructure for “end use” of recovered materials in US-120 + manufacturers in the state are using recovered materials in manufacturing
  • GA has one of largest pulp/paper industries in the nation—15 mills use recycled content; 8 of those are 100% recycled
  • Novelis, one of largest aluminum manufacturers in world is headquartered in Atlanta with a mill in Greensboro, GA (beverage can content and vehicle light-weighting)
  • Ga is touted as the Carpet Capital of the world with multiple mills in north GA—using 1/3 of all PET plastic bottles generated in US
  • Five glass manufacturers source recycled glass in state-including Owens Illinois in metro ATL
  • Recycle to Make a Difference Georgia Fact Card

Here’s what’s changed for the better in the last 20 years:
  • The amount we recycle and compost has grown more than 40 percent since 1996.
  • Recycling facilities now outnumber landfills 2-1
  • More than 70% of the US population has access to curbside recycling through more than 9,800 programs.
  • More than 200 communities compost