State Recycling Programs in Trouble as Economic Slowdown Hits China

Jill McCutcheon, executive director of Sedona Recycles, says the current state of recycling is the biggest Catch-22 she's ever seen.

The non-profit northern Arizona company's education division did a stellar job convincing state residents to drop off cardboard goods at 13 sites around the Verde Valley.

Now, literally tons of that material remains stored on the company's lot, without a buyer in these tough economic times.

According to an article in the New York Times' international edition today, the problem is slamming recyclers around the country.

New Times covered the benefits and drawbacks to recycling in its April "Green Fatigue" issue, pointing out that city recycling programs are money losers even as the concept itself seems sound.

A big part of the problem lies with China, which buys many of the used materials thrown away in blue bins by Arizonans. As the Times article says, China's manufacturing industry has slowed down, leading to less demand for recyclables.

"We're still receiving the same amount of material, but as we sell it, we're only getting 25 percent of the money for it that we were getting two months ago," McCutcheon tells New Times. "It's pretty grim."

Phoenix officials did not return a call by press time, but McCutcheon says the problem is likely having a "huge effect" on city recycling programs.

With cities cutting jobs and services to account for reduced tax revenue, being green may prove too expensive until the economy picks up again. -- Ray Stern

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern