The economic crisis has led to a sharp drop in prices for recycled plastic and paper, leading some people to wonder if recycling is still worth the effort.
The vice president of recycling at Alpine Waste & Recycling told 7NEWS that that company has planned for the economic ups and downs.
"At the beginning of the month there was panic and people were not buying material," Brent Hildebrand said. "But markets seem to be moving now."
Prices are also moving -- downward.
"Some of the plastics have fallen from $480 a ton to $40 a ton," Hildebrand said. "That happened in a matter of 45 days. So it's pretty drastic, but again we projected a lot of this."
Melissa Kolwaite at Waste Management said that company has been in the recycling business since 1971.
Weve seen the market fluctuate before, she said. Right now were storing plastic until the market turns around.
Hildebrand said Alpine is in the recycling business for the long run.
That's good news for homeowners like Bill Miller in Aurora, who pays an additional $7.00 a month on top of his regular garbage collection fee for recycling.
"I think recycling is important," Miller said. "It's going to help our community and it's going to help our planet."
In Denver, its the city that collects garbage and recycled material.
The garbage is taken to a landfill. The recycled material is sold to Waste Management for $33 a ton.
"Our contract is a long term contract," said Charlotte Pitt, manager of Denver's recycling program. "There is a clause in the contract that allows us to earn more if the prices climb above a certain level."
Pitt said Denver was in line to receive about $1.1 million dollars from its recycled material this year. She said the price drop in plastic and paper would cost the city about $100,000 in lost revenue.
Pitt said it costs the city $70 a ton to transport waste from curb to landfill and $20 a ton to transport recycled material from curb to recycling center.
When asked if there was a danger that prices may remain low long enough, or drop even more, so that it wouldn't make sense to recycle anymore, Pitt said, "At this point I don't see that happening."
Hildebrand added, "It's just like anything else. The market will come back. You just can't panic."
Hildebrand said the plastic detergent containers sorted at the recycling center are sold to a company in Wyoming that converts them into plastic fencing.
Pitt said phone books picked up in Denver are recycled into home insulation here in Colorado.
She said the largest single recycled item, newspapers, are sent to Arizona to be remade into new newsprint.
Some of the recycled paper ends up being remade into copy paper and greeting cards.
Pitt said, "Consumers can help the recycling industry by purchasing copy paper and Christmas cards made from recycled paper."
She said those products contain a recycled symbol.
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