June is finally here! Oh, wait. It’s already over…well, at least we have July to look forward to! Before we break out the barbecue and contraband fireworks, let’s take a look back at this month’s top headlines from the waste & recycling industry:

Remember When Recycling Was a Thing?

Low oil prices don’t just mean cheaper plastics, it means cheaper raw materials across the board, leaving recyclers with few takers for their recycled materials.

The recycling industry has been in the doldrums since last winter, when oil prices started trending downwards and finally cratered in early Spring. The sudden cheapness of fresh petroleum products has made recycled plastics essentially worthless, and its hitting municipalities and private companies hard. Waste Management claims that over 2,000 cities are now having to pay to dispose of their recyclables, rather than selling them. The company, the largest recycler in the nation, has had to shut one in ten of its recycling plants since the start of the year, with more closures on the horizon if the recyclables market continues its downward spiral. The Washington Post blames the downfall of American recycling on the big (and growing bigger) blue bins used in curbside recycling, but as with most things, the answer is far more nuanced and complex than that. And besides, its totally China’s fault.
Full Story @ Washington Post

Baltimore Haulers & City Employees Indicted for Landfill Bribery Scheme

Who would of thought that a pack of gum would be just as handy as a plain manila envelope for carrying your bribe money? Earlier this month, 11 employees of the Baltimore Department of Public Works (DPW) were indicted on charges of conspiracy, bribery, and extortion for allowing local trash haulers to forgo paying the $67.50 tipping fee charged by the city’s landfill in exchange for bribes ranging from $50 to $100 per day. The money was allegedly delivered through packages of gum stuffed into a brown paper bag, changing hands from driver to landfill attendant. The exchange gave participating haulers an advantage over their competitors, who were stuck paying the $67.50 per ton charge levied by the city. The bust is the culmination of a years-long investigation conducted by the FBI and IRS who claim that the bribery scheme has cost the city $6 million in tipping fees since 2001. Fortunately, the city can easily make that money back by selling its recyclables. Oh wait.
Full Story @ The Baltimore Sun

Fresno Hires “Trash Cops” to Keep an Eye on Your Cans

The city of Fresno has seen a rash of recycling thefts in recent months, mostly perpetrated by the city’s homeless as they scavenge through residential trash bins for aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Normally, these instances of petty theft wouldn’t warrant their own response, but it is raising all kinds of problems for the city’s sanitation department. Scavengers leave behind litter and end up mixing regular trash with recyclables, contributing to a 10% rise in contamination of the city’s recyclables. What’s more, the scavengers aren’t just content with scoring a few measly cans, with many resorting to breaking into cars to steal valuables. Fresno’s police chief has responded by hiring three new “trash cops” who will prowl neighborhoods to nab any would-be bin bandits. The funding for all three officers was scraped together through a combination of state, city, and taxpayer recycling money, emphasizing their new mission: to serve & protect, and reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Full Story @ Fresno Bee

Waste Management Exits the Real Estate Business

Back in the early 90’s, a local landfill owner in Grayslake, IL made a deal with the developer of the eco-friendly Prairie Crossings subdivision that they would buyback any homes that could not be sold at market value due to the odors emanating from the nearby landfill. The deal was meant as an incentive for home buyers, providing a little bit of security in case the location proved to be unbearable to the nostrils. One housing bubble and company acquisition later, Waste Management found itself owning 29 homes in the conservation-focused community curiously placed adjacent to a landfill. After spending years trying to get the homes off their books, Waste Management has finally found buyers and contractors for all 29 houses. No word yet on whether or not the remaining 330 homeowners of Prairie Crossings suffer from anosmia.
Full Story @ Waste Dive