Looking in the Crystal Ball

Departments - Editor's Column

December 29, 2010
Dan Sandoval

This past year seemed to be filled with more than its share of “Sturm und Drang.” The global economy moved front and center as the federal government took steps to put in place a viable plan to ensure the economic near collapse seen in late 2008 does not happen again.

Whether a person agrees with the policies behind the significant legislative initiatives that were implemented this past year, suffice to say that these changes will have a long-lasting impact on the economy.

Lost in debate over U.S. fiscal policies, interest in the environment has become more mainstream. What was considered trendy only several years ago has now become standard operating procedure for many corporations.

Companies large and small are incorporating environmentally conscious strategies into their business models. Whether that means partnering with recyclers to boost the recycling of their products, seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for their new buildings, reducing energy consumption or switching to alternative energy, it seems many companies are looking to become more “environmentally friendly.”

This attitude is leading to real possibilities for astute recyclers. While, historically, the recycling industry has operated in relative obscurity, these changes seem to offer an ideal time for forward-thinking recyclers to establish effective partnerships with private companies. Seeking such arrangements could allow recyclers to expand their brands, possibly into new avenues. This also may be an opportune time for recyclers to seek these partnerships, as it could help them secure material despite declining generation.

Also, quite a few venture capital firms have been investing in “green” ventures, including the recycling industry. In theory, this sector invests where it feels it can achieve large returns.

However, over the past year, local, state and federal legislation has been introduced with the intent of regulating the export of some materials, banning the landfilling of certain recyclables or restricting the use of other materials (e.g. plastic bags at retail stores). Such legislation has the potential to change the recycling industry’s landscape.

To succeed in this atmosphere of heightened environmental awareness, recyclers may have to work harder to engage with business and government. Whether that means looking for partnerships with local communities or businesses or ensuring that potential government policies receive input from recyclers, the industry may be best served by presenting itself as an effective partner to help solve environmental challenges.

Until we talk again, Happy Holidays to all.