Marketing Recyclables

Marketing recyclables can help to reduce garbage costs. Perhaps more importantly, revenue obtained from marketing recyclables can provide funds to supplement a recycling effort. Do not overlook this important component of a viable recycling program.


Determining what materials to recycle involves: 1.) ascertaining what materials your organization is producing and in what relative amounts; 2.) finding markets for these materials; 3.) determining what, if any, revenue can be realized from these materials; and 4.) conducting a cost-benefit analysis for capturing, processing, and marketing each of the material types.

The following steps should guide you in this process.

  1. Conduct a waste stream audit to determine what materials and amounts are generated.
  2. Identify local markets for recyclables.
  3. Determine the economic feasibility and benefits of recycling different items. Some materials might produce revenue, while others will be a break even proposition, and some will show a net cost. Weigh the life cost accounting on recyclables to determine if the benefits are worth the effort.
  4. Allow for the volatility of recycling markets and fluctuations across the country.
  5. Allow for material collection, storage, and transportation costs.
  6. Conduct a cost benefit analysis on the collection costs vs. the benefits from sale or diversion of the materials from the landfill
  7. Determine the material collection systems required.
  8. Determine material processing, sorting, and cleaning required for marketing.
  9. Incorporate these into program operations
  10. Implement collection systems and educational programs which will maximize participant responsibility and minimize material processing. You can check out our POSTERS and BIN LABELS for examples .
  11. If markets are not feasible for materials generated in large quantities, find ways to encourage waste reduction prior to generation of these materials. Institute waste reduction strategies for these materials. Design "Precycling" education and contract procedures that encourage waste reduction.
  12. Consider market opportunities and limitations in waste/recycling contracts . Utilize contracts to require suppliers to employ waste reduction mechanisms (providing products and services in reduced packaging); recycled content and recyclable packaging; and take-back and accountability programs (where the vendor takes back packaging and end-use products for recycling, along with a requirement for recycling accountability and measurement).
  13. Maximize revenue from recyclables based upon the resources at hand. Many colleges have large warehouses to accommodate balers and storage of materials for bulk sale, as well as for storage of materials during low market periods while waiting for markets to improve before selling.
  14. Identify program priorities and resources. Collection and processing should always be the number one priority, while becoming a recycling processor to maximize marketability might not always be feasible. The better job the team does in preparing non-contaminated, clean recyclables for market, the more the recycling markets will work to accommodate maximum revenue
  15. Determine areas where large amounts of materials are generated. Work with users on easy ways to capture the materials.
  16. Finally, repeat these steps periodically. Material types and viable markets which do not coexist at a particular point in time whether for economic or technological reasons may align at some point in the future. Remain alert for changes in the markets, technology, and your own operational particulars.

Lastly, remember that markets go through ebbs and flows. Be creative in the lean years and try and work it to put money aside to carry over. Set -up collection programs that will be stable. Once you have established recycling collection, it is very difficult to take away or scale back. Try and create systems that are in synch with local residential recycling programs.

Do your homework and network with other recycling programs in your area to stay on top of the many markets and possibilities for marketing your recyclables.

***Case in Point***

Paper Towels

For years, paper towels at the University of Oregon were considered a non-recoverable item. Our paper markets could not accept used/soiled paper towels, and collection posed an insurmountable problem. These items entered the waste stream as garbage. Recently, however, we have expanded our compost collections systems to include paper towels. We currently collect paper towels at several locations and include them in our compostables stream. We are working to expand this system to additional locations, and we hope to institute it campus-wide in the not-too-distant future.

 


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