Some Kansas City area school districts can hardly be faulted for removing recycling dumpsters that had been open for public use.
Who can blame them? The cash-strapped public schools had received revenue for the service they provided in the community. But now recycling no longer pays. It costs.
A lot of global economic factors are to blame. A worldwide surplus of oil has held down prices, causing returns for recyclable plastics to plunge. The Great Recession also hurt global demand for recyclables, and that has yet to return in the recovery.
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Overseas markets for U.S. recyclables in places like China also have become more restrictive, resulting in a glut of U.S. paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and other recyclables.
Prices have gone through the floor so that No. 2 plastics in recycled milk bottles and liquid detergents fetch only $60 a ton when the same weight brought in $320 a year ago.
The concern in this area and elsewhere is that interest in recycling could wane with the falling prices. It took years to get people in the habit of recycling.
Schoolchildren played a leading role in many area households, getting adults to recycle instead of throwing everything out as garbage. Children and adults must continue the practice despite school districts’ retreat because recycling benefits the environment in the long run.
Recycling takes plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum and other metals out of the waste stream. That helps extend the life of area landfills.
Reducing the waste stream also makes sense overall for the environment.
Die-hard environmentalists alone can’t bear the burden for recycling continuing. It’s something everyone should do for the planet even if the payback isn’t immediate.
Recycling now will benefit future generations in the material and energy saved so everyone years from now will have a cleaner environment with plenty of resources for their use and enjoyment.