March 13, 2011

Gas Hikes: Effect on Recycling

We’re all noticing the rise of gas prices. Unrest in Libya and Bahrain? The annual Spring Break rate hike? A random Tuesday for OPEC? Whatever the reason, it affects more than just your daily commute or whether you decide to go on that awesome road trip. Think of what it takes to get your curbside recyclables to materials recovery facility. Think of what it takes for those materials to be reprocessed into new materials – new paper products, new cans and bottles. Think, then, of what it takes for those new materials to get to a market near you. It takes gas. It takes lots and lots of trucks and trains and ships and planes to move all that stuff around.

Gas prices go up. Container fees on those trucks and trains and ships and planes go up. Processing costs go up. Transportation costs to get materials to recovery facilities go up. Garbage & recycling rates go up. Rate hikes may price out smaller markets. Which means businesses close (see Blue Heron Paper Mill). That’s loss of jobs and a hit to the local economy. It also means the loss of a recycling center. Now, there might be other places to recycle around. But then again, there might not be. Paper on the west coast might continue to be recycled in the US. In the cases of specialty recycling businesses, such as #5 plastics through Preserve, if one shuts down, that’s it. Who else is going to recycle water pitcher filters?

A couple of things come to mind. I won’t even mention doing less driving or taking public transit.

One, accept that garbage & recycling fees are going up. All that stuff has to go somewhere. We can take care of it responsibly or we can be buried in the consequences. Another is that we can make less garbage to haul off in the first place. In the Portland/Metro area, less garbage means you can request a smaller garbage can or less-frequent pickups, which mean cheaper garbage bills. Last, we need to purchase mindfully. If we’re not buying recycled items, then we’re not recycling. We’re just paying for someone to haul off our crap. Purchasing recycled means there’s a market for recycling, and that’s what keeps stuff out of the landfill.

How are you coping with the recent gas hikes? Is it changing what you reuse and recycle? Is it changing how you shop?

Consider reading: Money – Who suffers most from food/gas hikes?
Bloomberg Businessweek: Gas hikes may send recovery in reverse
Oxford Press, Ohio: Public, private sectors grappling with fuel costs

1 comment:

  1. No car so gas hikes don't have an immediate impact on me. I ride my bike with my non-curbside recyclables over to Far West to drop them off. I drink out of the tap so there are no water pitcher filters to recycle (and as we know, the plastic from those is downcycled, so it's better to avoid these altogether). I think the biggest idea is not buying things made from plastic in the first place, because of the fact that a plastic bottle cannot make another plastic bottle. I walked through the store the other day and thought about the number of things - butter, yogurt, cottage cheese - that are in tubs and it's made me cut most of those things out of my shopping routine. But it's not to do with gas hikes, just from becoming more aware.

    And re: gas hikes? We subsidize oil companies which is why it's as cheap as it is here in the US. I'd like to see what would happen if we paid the true price of gas, see how people changed their habits...