A regional recycling center serving Fort Dodge continues to sell paper locally, according to operations manager Jason Slinker. Slinker oversees recycling operations for about 42 towns through the North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Agency south of Fort Dodge. Earlier this month the Associated Press reported tons of paper meant to be recycled were instead dumped into a Des Moines landfill because of plunging prices for the material. “Our stuff stays pretty local. It goes to Clarion,” Slinker said. “They make egg crates and low-grade material, so we’ve yet to have that issue.”
Slinker said different buyers will have different standards for the recycled paper product they’re willing to buy. By working with the Clarion company, the NCIRSWA gets paid a little less per ton but has been able to continue operations even as the market remains unpredictable.
“Somebody had approached me about our paper and possibly paying more, but I like to keep things local,” Slinker said. “From a logistics standpoint we’re right there, and the product they’re making is very low standard, so with these volatile markets right now, that seemed to be the safer bet.”
China made changes in what recycling it would accept from the U.S. over a year ago, in response to poor quality product it was getting from the U.S., according to Slinker. That’s led to a need for higher-quality recycling material throughout the stream.
Overall, the agency remains financially sound because of the landfill side, Slinker said. The NCIRSWA operates the landfill south of Fort Dodge as well as a Household Hazardous Waste collection site. “Even when we have some dark times,” he said, “we’re not cutting jobs or anything. We can still rely on the revenue generated from the landfill to keep everything afloat.”
The prices the center can get paid for paper and cardboard have dropped dramatically he said. Prices for plastic have actually gone up. “Plastic had increased, but the volume or weight of the plastic, we don’t export near as much to recover from the hit we took when the markets went down,” he said. “I probably only send out 15 tons (or less) of plastic a month, where paper I’m sending out about 40 tons a month, and cardboard I’m doing 100 tons a month.
“Plastic is big, it’s bulky volume-wise, but the weight isn’t there compared to the fiber products. Even though the price went up, it didn’t necessarily tip the scales and balance it when the other markets went down.”