Chittenden County Says Preparation Is Key To Keep Recycling Despite Low Commodity Prices

May 19, 2016

Last week VPR reported on a recent downturn in commodity prices that has some waste district managers scrambling to make ends meet to comply with Vermont's universal recycling law. Our story drew a response from officials with the Chittenden Solid Waste District, because they say planning for exactly this kind of circumstance has left them in a much better position.

They were responding to our story about Windham's solid waste district in Brattleboro, which is struggling to increase capacity at a time when the amount of money they receive for recycled material is dwindling.

Tom Moreau, branch manager of the Chittenden Solid Waste District, spoke with VPR about measures being taken in his district, and the challenges surrounding implementing Act 148, Vermont's universal recycling law.

Recycling has been mandatory for Chittenden County since 1993. Given the prices for recycled materials are pretty volatile, Moreau says the district works to set aside money when prices are good to help it afford to continue recycling when commodity prices are low.  

“The cost to process recyclables— to take them in at a factory, prepare them and ship them off the market— is pretty constant. So right now it costs about $58 a ton to process [recycled] materials,” says Moreau.

Moreau says sending that same material to a landfill would cost somewhere between $100 and $130 a ton.

“We just plan for those kind of commodity prices and knowing full well that they're going to occur, and never ever depend on the recycling to run our other programs.”

So even though the price districts can get for recycled materials dropped in 2012, Moreau says the recycling program is still well supported financially.