The Recycling Industry Will Resurface, but When?

Import restrictions and decreased market prices for materials have fueled much anxiety and instability in the recycling industry over the past year. However, the industry can be expected to rebound to a certain degree—although it may take a bit longer than usual.

Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) are in the process of revamping their operations by installing new and improved sorting technologies, hiring and training more staff, and acquiring investments and new markets in order to reach new purity requirements and handle their surplus.

The current going prices for recycled commodities are still on an overall downturn, and this can be expected to continue for some time until the new technologies and infrastructure are able to take effect. Although, not all commodities have been effected equally—we have seen a recent spike in cardboard pricing and do expect that to continue for the next few months.

According to Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration for The Recycling Partnership, the national blended value of a ton of residential recyclables was just over $35 in March. This is compared to the cost of about $80 per ton for an MRF to produce that ton of recyclables.

However, this doesn’t mean that these materials don’t have value—they are just challenged in the existing market which is in a period of extreme fluctuation. These materials are just as valuable as they’ve always been to the end users, it’s just a matter of making the adjustments needed to move them in an evolving market.

Although foreign markets are currently declining, domestic capacity continues to increase and we can expect to see those markets increase exponentially over the next few years. It’s projected that nearly $400 million is being invested across the country to increase capacity and improve infrastructure for plastics recycling, so it’s only a matter of time until these MRFs are able to produce more recyclables at a more efficient price to keep up with the new market.

Paper has always been easier to recycle than plastic, but there is a massive amount of investment in the paper industry as well, totaling more than $2.5 billion. Due to the increasing digitization of media, the paper market has been decreasing—but we can expect change here as well.

Due to the decrease in plastic products and especially plastic packaging and bags, paper can be expected to increase in consumption and demand to offset this decline.

Infrastructure change, including revamping equipment and training new staff, can take years to fully implement. But ultimately these changes will allow more U.S. based recyclers to sort and process their material domestically and be sold more efficiently, whether domestically or abroad.

While the industry is taking a downturn, it will resurface and be better equipped to flourish in the evolving market with the changes being implemented today—the only question is when.

We will continue to stay on top of the latest trends in the recycling industry and provide the most timely updates to our readers. Berg Mill has a long history as one of the pioneers in the industry, we are here to help you navigate through all the recyclable import changes. If you handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill supply via our website or phone at 866-333-BERG. Talk to us about purchasing all your scrap paper, plastic, metal, textiles, glass grades, e-waste, and any other materials. Make sure to check out our new consulting department as well to help you navigate through any issues at all, more info on our website at