Everybody who writes regularly sort of has to ask this question, but there really are some things in the new bill for recyclers to consider.

An important one for Brunswick is what looks like an expansion of an existing program which we are already using to our advantage. That’s a provision that will help the EPA provide grants to cities and towns to improve their recycling programs. We have recently received such a grant from the EPA that will fund an intern position in town, and help with materials and education specifically about organics recycling. We have an especially strong organics program here, and the grant will help us get out the word and encourage more recycling and reduction of organics waste. The Organics subcommittee of the Recycling and Sustainability Committee is working now on what that program might contain, and we will report on it whenever we have new information.

On a wider scale, the EPA is also charged with development of a model recycling toolkit for states, local governments, and others to improve recycling rates and decrease contamination in the solid waste stream. I expect you’ll hear more about that soon, as well.

On a secondary level, the Infrastructure Bill will assist by raising the value of some recycling commodities — as the baled up packets of cardboard, aluminum, steel, and paper are called. Those bales are handled much like other raw materials used by manufacturers (which are also considered commodities) and their cost, relative to virgin raw materials are both an indicator of the cost of the end products, and a reflection of the cost of the virgin raw materials for which they substitute. Particularly when we get to a product like aluminum, which is very widely used, so in continuously high demand, but also has a large overseas component to its availability, then the cost of both the virgin materials, and the recycled commodities goes up. As the value of these commodities goes up, our costs for recycling go down, and are now reportedly lower than the cost of putting them into the trash. This is very good news for all of our residents, and extends to the costs faced by other towns as well.

The end cost of new aluminum products to the consumer also rises, of course, but the more we can recycle, and the more we see recycled materials being used as a component of new aluminum products, the better off we will all become. According to Recycling Today, the Aluminum Association sent Congress a letter of support for the infrastructure bill. That letter noted aluminum is one of only eight critical commodities recognized by the Federal Government as essential to all sectors of the U.S. economy. It certainly skips lightly over the fact that the industry stands to make a lot of money under the new rules, but still does not overstate its importance to the economy as a whole. Everything from new buildings to electric vehicles are using ever more aluminum, and as the price becomes more competitive with other materials, our overall costs decline (or at least go up more slowly).

Other commodities see similar improvements in the new markets. The cardboard industry can no longer exist, for example, without recycled product to bolster its materials mix, and the prices for recycled cardboard have gone up as a result.

It’s time to start making money again by recycling!

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee, though his opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the committee. 

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