The Nasty Side of Recycling

March 28th, 2014 BY ChrisD | 2 Comments
copper wires

The state of the economy has caused several unintended consequences. For example, people are going back to wood for fuel, which in turn, causes an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. The environment suffers simply because people are trying to save money. Another insidious turn-of-events has also occurred as people struggle to make ends meet.

Theft of Recyclable Materials
The value of recyclable materials varies with the market that is driven by supply and demand. To the everyday person, the value of some materials may not be evident. However, others have monetary value that someone can get a profit. Hence, the development of a new market for recyclables.

Copper and other metals have value for someone taking them to a recycling center. Copper can be salvaged as wiring or as tubing. Stripped copper offers the best value. With the down economy, it represents easy money to collect from trash or as in one case in Minnesota, from a home improvement center. Other materials also have value such as aluminum. The same risk for theft exists for cans collected for charity.

Cashing In
On the one hand, recycling is good no matter what the source. However, theft is theft. The fact that materials can be recycled only puts a different face on the crime. Perhaps the bigger question is the lengths that some individuals may go to in order to make some money. The environment just happens to be the unintended recipient of their actions.

This type of theft certainly isn’t anything new. Anything with value is fair game. With scrap metals, the economy inadvertently drives this turn of events. Recycling centers are merely filling the roll of a fence. It’s part of the seedy side of recycling.

If there is a good message, it is that markets exist for items you may view as trash. It may be obvious to recycle water bottles or newspapers. If you are remodeling your home or building a new one, there may be materials that you can recycle.

Scrap metals had the third highest recycling rate in 2007 at nearly 35 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1960, this figure was only 0.5 percent. Clearly, the value of other person’s trash has value in the eyes of others.

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