Cardboard recycling stunted by lack of buyers

RecyclingMonster - The inability to find a buyer for cardboard means changes in how it’s now disposed of in Custer County.

In early September, the county implemented a fee of .064 cents per pound for corrugated cardboard that’s hauled to one of the transfer stations. There’s a $2 minimum drop-off fee. It’s the same price charged to drop off household trash. Previously people could drop off corrugated cardboard without paying a fee.

Custer County commissioners implemented the fee after they held an Aug. 12 public hearing which no one spoke at. Nor were any comments submitted on the plan to assess a fee for cardboard hauled to a transfer station. Prior to that hearing, Commissioner Steve Smith said commissioners were contemplating the fee because of the inability to sell cardboard to anyone. Wendall Gohn, owner of Blue Mountain Refuse, echoed that position.

“Cardboard prices are in the toilet and have been for years,” Gohn said. Most recyclable materials collected in the U.S. have been sold to China and other countries in past years, but China isn’t buying now, Gohn and Smith said. Too many people failed to sort their trash and too much of what was supposed to be recyclable material was really garbage. So, buyers no longer want that product, the two men said.

“Years ago China told us to sort trash out of the recyclables,” Gohn said. But Americans didn’t do that, so China stopped buying it.

More recycling facilities are currently being built in the U.S., Gohn said, but not enough to handle the cardboard that’s stockpiled in nearly every community.

Gohn said his business stacked up cardboard that had about $20,000 of labor involved in preparing it and finally found a buyer who paid $600 to haul it off.

“Recycling is not a money-maker,” he said. “I’d love to be able to recycle it all, but someone has to buy it,” and that’s not happening these days.

Gohn believes the recycling situation in the country will improve as the U.S. develops its own recycling options instead of depending on other countries to take the material off our hands.

The Custer County transfer stations still accept aluminum and that is recycled because there are plenty of buyers of aluminum.

“We’re just hoping we can get the aluminum price up,” Gohn said.

Gohn said people can still separate their corrugated cardboard from their trash and deliver it to a transfer station sorted. His employees will bundle the cardboard and store it for a while to see if a buyer can be found. If cardboard is tossed in with regular garbage, it won’t be sorted out, he said. It will be hauled to the Lemhi County landfill with all the other household garbage collected in Custer County.

The Challis transfer station is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays.