Can pay-as-you-throw schemes lift America’s metal recycling rate?

Oct 01, 2009 | 09:15 AM |

Until now, incentives for the average consumer to recycle have been mostly "pays good" or "feels good." Increasingly, though, we may be moving toward a different approach "Make it increasingly expensive not to."

Two of the influences pushing in that direction are the greenhouse-gas alarm and the shrinkage of local government revenue due to the economic downturn. Offering policy viewpoints in both arenas is Alcoa Inc., Pittsburgh, a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which favors a cap-and-trade program and creating effective technology for carbon capture. Other backers are Rio Tinto Alcan and Chrysler LLC.

The metals-producing sector is divided on cap and trade. Steelmaker Nucor Corp., for example, envisions the consequence as dramatically higher prices for all types of energy and a setback in global competitiveness.

Also on Alcoa's wish list is "pay-as-you-throw"—volume-sensitive fees for trash collection, so less garbage would mean lower payments by a household or business. Faced with such a pocketbook impact, many customers would suddenly feel motivated to maximize the removal of recyclables from trash, and the local agency or company handling garbage pickup would equally as suddenly encounter less trash and more recyclables.....

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