Need to reinvigorate municipal recycling could spur cooperation.
When it comes to market share for consumer packaging, the aluminum, steel, plastic, glass and paperboard industries can be vigorous competitors.
The shifts in consumer and retailer packaging preferences create triumphs and episodes of despair for each of the industries, causing rivalries and distrust.
But the one thing each of the industries has in common is that they can benefit from the availability of materials collected at the curb that can be used as feedstock in their industrial processes.
In a commodities session at the Southeast Recycling Conference & Trade Show, which took place in mid-March in Orange Beach, Ala., representatives from several of these industries expressed an interest in working together to promote a common recycling message.
Steve Thompson, who runs the Aluminum Association’s Curbside Value Partnership, says it is his impression that MRF operators and recycling program coordinators have had enough of promotional materials and programs that concentrate on only one material. The time is right, he says, for the industries to work together to strengthen programs across the board.
As far as convincing elected and appointed government officials that expanding programs makes sense, Thompson said, “If you can document that education is an investment [and] not an expense, you can make a case for city officials to see.” The Curbside Value Partnership has been tracking costs and returns with its municipal and solid waste district partners, says Thompson.
Higher commodity prices are also helping to reinforce that message, says Bill Heenan of the Steel Recycling Institute, Pittsburgh. Civic leaders in cities that have well-run programs are learning the value of good collection programs, especially “when they see a check at the end of the year instead of an invoice,” said Heenan.
Paper industry consultant Bill Moore remarked that the paper industry would also benefit from municipal recycling program improvements that would help further develop the supply of secondary fiber.
And Rudy Underwood, a Southeast Region representative of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division, noted that higher plastics prices have not drawn out more plastic, and agreed that a unified recycling message is worth exploring.
The Southeast Recycling Conference & Trade Show, hosted by the Southern Waste Information eXchange Inc., took place March 11-13 in Orange Beach, Ala.