Nichols has been recycling several commodities for more than 15 years – and then all of a sudden… things came to a halt more than a year ago. When this happened we could no longer send the same size bales of film that we had been sending to our recycler, prices dropped dramatically for corrugate materials, paper, film and all of the materials we had done well with at earning a little bit of money by recycling. The Republic’s Material Recovery Center (also the Community Recycling Center) that was near our Corporate Headquarters closed. Things were not looking pretty. For some of us that have been struggling with the changes in the recycling market over the past couple of years, we may not feel like celebrating America Recycles Day on November 15th. In fact, a colleague just mentioned to me last week that he attended a regional recycling meeting recently and it was down- right depressing.
There is hope, however! Last week I was invited to take a sneak preview of our local Goodwill’s new recycling center that is about to open. They are so excited about their new space and the possibilities for what they are now able to do with the increased capacity. They have already developed new relationships with area businesses to become their recycling arm. They have also developed new relationships with businesses that can utilize the materials that they are collecting. While on this visit, I expressed a frustration about the internal issues we have been dealing with and with a big smile on their face, someone’s response was “this has been good for us!”. It made me think about the proverb: “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure.”
Goodwill’s mission is to create job opportunities for those with barriers to employment. Nichols has started using Goodwill to recycle many of the things that we have been recycling for years and then couldn’t, to support their mission. There is a value to many of the items that can be recycled, the problem is getting enough volume or the logistics of getting it to where it needs to be to be recycled. Building relationships – like Goodwill is doing – is innovative.
Recycling can and should drive innovation. It has been encouraging to see the resiliency by many during what some of us have viewed as challenging times. Some examples include:
- The expansion of recycling programs
- Implementation of composting programs, and
- Zero-waste to landfill efforts by many educational institutions and corporations
It has been encouraging to watch so many that live and breathe recycling to stay steadfast to this effort. Let’s Celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15th and if there is one thing you can do to move your recycling program forward, let’s do it! Let’s celebrate the positive things that have occurred and the progress that has been made. Join the recycling coalitions in your state and get involved!