Revenues for recycling materials have taken a serious hit in the past year and continue on the decline according to Lake County Environmental Services Director Christine McCarthy. McCarthy addressed the issue during her annual review of the environmental services department to the Lake County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, April 23.
"I was getting all excited last year when our revenues reached $23,000," McCarthy said. "We were separating plastics and making more money with lots of other efficiencies. Then the market took a tank and we're only at $13,000 for 2018."
McCarthy attributed the $10,000 decrease to changes in the greater recycling market. Countries such as India and China have stopped purchasing the formerly high amounts of recycled materials from the United States coastal regions.
"Our materials mainly go to the Midwest market, but the coast regions have been flooding our market and we're seeing the prices fluctuate wildly," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the market is so unstable that one of the county's recycling brokers would not give her a price for recycling books until the materials arrived.
"He said the prices have been changing so much, he didn't know what the market price would be until the actual day. He couldn't estimate what it would be," McCarthy said.
Books have varied in price from $20 per ton of material to zero since January 2018, according to a table prepared by McCarthy.
"It's to the point where we're paying to get rid of some materials. It's costing us money to recycle glass, books, and a few other paper materials," McCarthy said.
Due to this development, McCarthy ceased the sale of mixed paper products for a period of time.
"I said, 'Well, let's just stop sending it then and keep the bales for a while,'" McCarthy said. "We can hide them in corners of the recycling center and stack them up until we see a change."
McCarthy hopes that organizations such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency get involved in the situation to find possible solutions to the recycling market crisis.