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Recycling may be in a slump, but its not dead


November 18, 2019

If you are recycling, you are well aware that many of the items you used to recycle can’t be taken by the recyclers or your solid waste program. This is the result of Americans sending filthy recyclables to China, our biggest recyclables customer, only to be shut down until literally, we clean up our recycling methodology.

But, this depressed opportunity to recycle is only a bump in the long road. Keep in mind recyclables are a commodity marketed similarly to other commodities such as grains and livestock. Anyone in the agricultural industry knows the volatility of these agricultural markets. It is tough, but most producers manage to weather the storms of decline and times of depressed prices.

In the meantime, while we are in down recyclable commodity markets, here are some suggestions:

• Check with your recyclers and solid waste managers to see what they WILL take.

• Clean your recyclables before recycling.

• Decline that plastic bag at the store. Use reusable bags.

• Buy less. For example, buying things we don’t need is the biggest cause of electronic or e-waste.

• Buy used and reuse when possible. Giving something a longer life is best for the environment.

• Use electronics longer than what’s “socially acceptable.” Do you need a new cell phone or bigger television each year?

• There is still a market for e-waste. When you’re done with electronics, make sure to recycle them with a certified recycler. Most electronics have toxic materials in them, so it’s important to dispose of them properly.

The prices of recyclables will come back. Just as the opportunity to recycle more items will return. In the meantime, reduce and reuse while we wait it out, and do a better job of sorting and cleaning recyclables.


Kolbi Fox and Candi Zion started Yellowstone E-waste in Billings on Earth Day in 2006 without prior knowledge of owning a business. The business has expanded to include a retail store and includes data destruction as one of the services they offer. Candi Zion was an original founder of Recycle Hi-Line and has served several years on the board of Recycle Montana. Candi and her husband moved from Havre to the Winifred area where they are currently ranching.


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