Recycling Woes

December 10, 2008 12:31:59 AM PST
There's gold in electronic waste, along with lot of other valuable stuff. Getting it out takes a lot of labor. But the payoff is ... well, not what it used to be.John Shegarian is the CEO of Electronic Recyclers. The country's largest electronic recycling company. He says: "Commodity prices are near an all time low. Copper is off 60 per cent since August. Steel is over 80 per cent off. Gold and Aluminum are also way off."

The plastics in computers and TV's, which are made of petroleum products have plunged like the price of oil. It's the same story for the paper and cardboard recycling industry, where mountains of paper are piling up, because prices are so low.

Don Derleth of Bairos Recycling puts it this way: "The bottom has fallen out of the market we haven't been able to sell anything since back in October."

For example, in October mixed paper sold for 105 dollars a ton on the West Coast. In November it dropped to 25 dollars.

In June, copper was at over 3 dollars a pound. In December it's a dollar 42.

So what are recycling companies doing? Tightening up, becoming more efficient, and looking for storage.

Derleth says:" We're planning on finding some additional warehouse space and we're going to hold on to it. "

Shegarian is also trying to hang on until prices rise. "We are stockpiling certain precious metals and other metals waiting for the prices to come back." He says.

Some of the metals and plastics in the Electronics Recyclers plant would end up in China, being made into new products. Those products would be packaged in boxes made from recycled cardboard. But with consumers buying fewer products there's much less need for the metal and plastic, or the cardboard.

Don Derleth says:"We've been in the business more than 25 years, and this is the worst we've seen it."

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