While recycling is an important part of the American waste management system, there are several problems faced by the industry. Solutions to these problems can be difficult to come by. Municipal recycling centers, as well as processing plants, can manage these problems with time and thought. Here are five challenges facing recycling centers, each with a proposed solution.
1. Poorly Sorted Materials
According to Leadpoint, in areas such as the Northwest where recycling is well-established in the community and where environmentalism is strong, materials are generally properly sorted. In other parts of the country, compliance tends to be low and non-recyclable materials are often mixed in.
To solve this problem, the public should be taught how to properly recycle. Waste removal drivers can refuse to collect barrels with improper materials inside.
2. Environmental Pollutants
Many recyclable materials contain environmental pollutants like household chemicals. These chemicals can be spread throughout the recycling center when material is crushed. The public is not often aware that residue in their recyclables can impact the process further down the road. Dangerous chemicals also come from items that contain mercury, like batteries.
Again, the best way to prevent this problem is through consumer education.
3. Worker Safety
The sorting and baling machinery is inherently dangerous, and if employees are not properly trained, they face the risk of injury or death. Improperly recycled materials can become stuck or tangled in the machinery, causing difficulties.
Strict workplace safety regulations should be implemented, along with regular worker training on best situational practices.
4. Sinking Value of Recyclables
As The Balance – Small Business points out, even when recycling is properly sorted and processed, its value on the open market has greatly decreased. Many municipalities are discontinuing recycling programs due to the rising costs and lack of a market for the proceeds.
There is no ready solution to this problem, which will negatively impact the recycling industry in the United States. If materials were processed in the United States instead of overseas, local markets may find better places to use them.
5. Security Challenges for Recycling Centers
Along with the safety, logistical, and economic difficulties faced by recycling centers, security concerns are paramount. When papers are not properly shredded, consumers face the possibility of identity theft. According to ProVigil Security Systems, “Recycling centers face a number of problems when it comes to security. These centers may contain valuable material, both in the form of recyclable waste, as well as expensive equipment.” In addition, recycling centers need to have a proper security system with monitored cameras and full-time staff.
Even though the recycling industry faces significant difficulties in today’s market, recycling can continue to be a crucial part of waste stream management. With proper planning, recycling centers can thrive.