Marketing recyclables requires knowledge of the material itself. Knowing the markets will provide invaluable information about what types of materials are recyclable in the area and will indicate specifications for collecting, processing, and transporting material. Marketing recyclables, to reduce costs of garbage and supplement a recycling effort, is an important key to managing a recycling/waste reduction program. In order to decide which materials to recycle it is important to analyze the waste stream to determine what types and amounts of waste materials are generated on campus. See Chapter 6: Solid Waste Audits for details on conducting an audit.
Identify existing markets for recyclables. It is a big mistake to collect materials that do not have a ready market. Instead of recyclables, the end result is waste. Identify local waste management companies that handle recyclables and other recycling processors in the area. Obtain a list of prices from local vendors. Find out what the vendors' collection methods are and determine whether the campus has the ability to collect, process and deliver materials to local vendors, or if a contractor will need to be hired.
Be aware that recycling markets are not consistent across the country and that markets fluctuate. Due to market fluctuations, do not rely on materials purchase for funding general operating costs. Money from selling more valuable materials will certainly benefit the program and should be included in the budget, but are not consistent enough to be able to fully cover expenses such as rent, salaries, utilities, transportation and other ongoing necessities. Be creative in the lean years and put money aside to carry over. Set up stable collection programs. Once a recycling collection system is well-established, it is more difficult to change it, scale it back, or remove it. Create systems that are in synch with municipal residential recycling programs so that the program can benefit from local educational programs.
Creating a collection system can be tricky. Each area of the country has different variables determining what can be collected and how it must be prepared for market. Many municipal recycling programs are implementing commingled or single stream recycling collection systems and many colleges choose to follow the same model as what is available to city residents. Commingling requires an entirely different marketing process and can cost money to recycle but can save labor. Some schools are choosing to implement dual stream systems where all paper is collected separately from glass/metal/plastics. Most commingling or dual stream systems require glass to be collected and processed separately. With a dual stream system, money can be made (value added) from collecting paper separately. Weighing the variables will provide the needed information to develop what is best for the campus as a whole.
Determine economic feasibility and benefits of recycling different items; some materials might make money, others might break even, and certain materials will cost money to recycle. Complete a cost benefit analysis on collection costs versus benefits from sale or diversion of materials from the landfill to determine if the benefits are worth the effort.
Determine areas where large amounts of materials are generated and identify easy ways to capture materials. Next, determine how to collect, process, and store materials before transport to the market. Assess processing needs such as sorting, grinding, and crushing for the market once materials are collected. Incorporate these procedures into program operations.
A program's ability to maximize revenue from recyclables is dependent on the resources at hand. Many colleges are fortunate to have large warehouses to accommodate balers and storage of recycled materials for bulk sale as well as storage of low market recyclables to wait out the market. Identify program priorities and resources. Collecting and processing is a number one priority, but becoming a recycling processor to maximize marketability might not always be feasible. The better job a team does in preparing non-contaminated recyclables for market, the more recycling markets will work to accommodate maximum revenue.
If markets are not available for specific materials generated in large quantities, find ways to encourage waste reduction prior to waste generation. Institute waste reduction strategies for these materials. Design and implement contract procedures that encourage waste reduction and “precycling” for materials that do not have available markets.
Consider markets in waste/recycling contracts. Research what other campuses are doing with Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to maximize recycling revenue and efficient collections while reducing garbage costs. Insert contract language that requires suppliers to provide products and services in reduced packaging and to have take-back and accountability programs. For instance, the vendor can be obligated to take back the packaging and end-use product for recycling. Include requirements for accountability on recycling, including quantities recycled. As a last resort, if materials are left in university waste stream, ensure through the contract that materials are reduced and recyclable packaging is utilized.
Do the necessary research and network with other recycling programs in the area to stay on top of the many existing markets and new possibilities for marketing campus recyclables. A good place to find local recycling market information is from the local city or county sanitation service. Visit the landfill and/or the local recycling center. This can help to provide accurate information which could lead to assistance in setting up a campus recycling program.
Form partnerships with other local waste generators to collect and recycle materials that can be recycled in larger quantities than an individual campus can generate or store. Often markets are available for materials generated in large quantities. These markets do not necessarily exist for smaller quantities of materials.
Keep campus location in mind when identifying markets and starting a program. In rural communities, contact the nearest metropolitan area to learn about existing recycling services and procedures. If the campus is located in a town, work with town officials to obtain grants and services to provide recycling drop-off centers both on campus and off. Large rural campuses may have to be prepared to store large quantities of materials to be able to market them. For campuses in large urban areas, look in the phone book or online for recycling market information. These locations have a better chance of being on the route for general recycling collection as well as being nearby drop-off locations for unusual or more difficult to recycle materials.
EPA Recycling Market Development
EPA Waste Homepage
The Secondary Commodity Index
Waste Management Commodities Exchange