Organizations and companies which depend on revenue from the sale of recyclable materials have likely been disappointed through the latter part of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. The price for most recycling commodities has steadily decreased over the past nine to ten months. Figure 1 shows that the average Midwest regional commodity price for cardboard has dropped from more than $115 per ton in April 2014 to $70 per ton in February 2015. For a facility processing an average of 200 tons of cardboard per month, this means monthly revenues from the sale of this material has decreased from $23,000 to $14,000 over a ten-month period.


Figure 1. Average Midwest Commodity Price for Corrugated Containers (Source: RecyclingMarkets.Net)

Prices for other commodities have suffered a similar fate. Figure 2 illustrates that the average baled price for PET has decreased from approximately $20 per ton in June 2014 to $13 per ton in February 2015. The only commodity which has not shown this type of decline in price is aluminum cans.


Figure 2. Average Midwest Commodity Price for Baled PET (Source: RecyclingMarkets.Net)

While few organizations or companies have the ability to influence commodity pricing for recyclables, there are steps which can be taken to maximize marketing options. A document prepared by the Southeast Recycling Development Council, Factsheet: Understanding Local Recycling Markets, has a number of excellent suggestions for improving your ability to market recyclables and obtain competitive pricing for the commodities. Among the suggestions includes making a habit of regularly checking recent market prices published in journals like Waste News and Resource Recycling. “…Both offer regular updates on material prices paid, generally by bale price. ScrapIndex.com and Recycler’s World can also be good resources. The Official Board Markets ‘Yellow Sheet’ is the main source of paper pricing…”

Recent news for Ohio recyclers includes the potential for greater demand for plastic recyclables. Recycling firm Axion International Holdings, Inc. is expanding capacity at its facilities in Texas and Ohio. The Zanesville operation’s reprocessing of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) in baled bottles has doubled in capacity. Earlier this month the facility began making laminated and heavy mats from the recycled materials. (Source: Waste News)

What does the future hold for recyclable commodity prices? If the last 10 to 15 years can be used as an indicator, prices will bounce back eventually. Although the average Midwest price of cardboard was only $20 per ton during the recession in 2009, two years later it was $170 per ton. So it seems reasonable to assume that prices will improve…the difficult question to answer is, “When?”

Comments or questions? Contact GT Environmental, Inc. at gt@gtenvironmental.com or 614-794-3570.