Recycling industry hurt by low oil prices

Recycling industry hurt by low oil prices

(KUTV) Falling oil prices usually means good news for consumers, but the recycling industry has taken a big hit, especially in plastics. Many businesses are finding it cheaper to manufacture new plastic than to use recycled materials.

As a result, plastic bundles are piling up at recycling centers, waiting for a time when the economics are more in their favor. The fear is, if oil prices continue to decrease, bundles of unwanted recycled plastics could end up discarded in the local landfill.

"Gosh I hope that doesn't happen," says Larry Gibbons, Director of Business Development for Rocky Mountain Recycling. "We haven't had that discussion. We need to have everybody share in the downside, just like they did in the upside."

Gibbons says the recycling industry, primarily plastics, is so closely tied to the price of oil, because it takes a lot to ship the product, grind it down and turn it back into a usable form. Which is why, in his business, high oil prices are a good thing.

"Not too high, but higher is always good. This affects a number of different arms of our industry," he said.

Recycled paper and metals have been affected too, not only by oil price, but an increase in labor and technology.

Does this mean recycling is doomed?

"We're in this for the long haul. We want to turn around. We still take it. We still recycle it and we're still helping the cities move it."

There are small things we can do to help.

Gibbons is urging consumers not to put plastic bags in the recycle bin. Plastic bags clog machines and can't be processed at the facility.

"If the consumer will take that back to the retail outlet where they got it, it won't be in this, it will mean a better program, more sustainable for everyone that participates in a curbside program along the Wasatch Front," he said.

Rocky Mountain Recycling supports a ban on plastic bags. They are currently talking to local municipalities about putting one in place. For now, it is strictly voluntary.

Follow Chris Miller on Twitter @ChrisMillerKUTV for breaking news, updates and more.

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