Recently in the Washington Post an article entitled, American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why, appeared stating that basically America had topped their recycling rates and that recycling was on a decline. The article interviewed an executive from Waste Management stating that local governments were going to have to step in and either pay them money to run recycling operations or take over part of the recycling process.
Many experts in the materials handling industry (what the general public calls recycling) are looking to get diversion rates from the landfills up to 60% and the City of Atlanta has stated they are on target to be “Zero Waste” which is a 90% diversion rate. So, why are recycling handlers saying we have tapped out at 36%? What’s the answer to everything? Money. David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management stated in the article, “We want to help our customers, but we are a for-profit business. We won’t stay in the industry if we can’t make a profit.” Of course the irony is not too far back in the past, large landfill companies like Waste Management were trying to prevent recycling so they could keep tipping fees and more recently put little recyclers out of business as they moved in because they could see profits.