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LIKE IT OR NOT: RECYCLING'S DREAM IS COLLIDING WITH REAL WORLD SUPPLY AND DEMAND FORCES

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

The dream of a world that reuses its trash is facing the hard reality of market economics.

People dutifully separate paper from tin, and glass from garbage, but as Crescent Citys main recycler recently learned, if no one wants to buy those commodities, a major piece of the recycling dream is missing.

The fact that more people are recycling now, youve got too much supply and not enough demand, said Brian Sollom of Humboldt Sanitations recycling department.

In Del Norte County, recycler Jordan Kekry is facing major profit losses due to a world-wide market flooded with the products hes trying to sell.

For processors to be able to accept recyclables like newspaper and tin cans, there has to be a place for the product to go, Kekry said.

I used to get $160 a ton for cardboard and newspaper, now I get $50. It just keeps getting harder to make up for losses like with tin, he said.

To get tin shipped off to scrap metal processors, Kekry said he actually has to pay the factories to take it off his hands.

Humboldt Sanitation has the same problem, according to Sollom.

Tin is a definite loser. I receive about $22 a ton, but shipping is $26 a ton and processing costs eat into it even further, he said.

Mike Cunha, a commodities trader for Sims Metal in Richmond Calif. said the market for tin is to blame.

On the totem pole of scrap metal, tin cans are next to the bottom, he said. The prices are so low on tin, its hardly worth while to even come and pick it up.

Tin is very cheap, which is helpful to companies using it to package their product. But the low price for tin makes shipping it out of Del Norte County for recycling difficult.

Market spectators like Cunha and Sollom say the tin market cycle may come back to show a profit, but Del Norte Solid Waste Manager Kevin Hendrick said people shouldnt expect recycling anything to turn a profit or even be just free.

The perception that recycling should always be free is a fallacy, he said.

And for business owners who risk getting into the recycling industry, Hendrick said: If you buy stock and it goes up - people are happy. But if it goes down - should you be bailed out?

If and when Kekry stops accepting tin, Hendrick said Del Norte Disposal will still be under contract with Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority to find somewhere else to take the tin.

Tommy Sparrow, of Del Norte Disposal said he will make a request to get out of that contract and close down the tin bins at local drop-off sites.

You cant even give the stuff away - the market for it has just gone too far south, Sparrow said.

Hendrick said people can still separate out their tin and other metals and bring them to the dump for a nominal fee.

In the long term, Hendrick said consumers should stop buying tin. Instead, grocery buyers should pay attention to packaging, making sure it is feasible to recycle.

Consumers have a choice. Its not just someone elses problem - not buying tin and low grade plastics is one solution, Hendrick said.

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