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Friday, December 12, 2008

Madison Recycling Riding out Price Drop... May Offer Affordable Housing Solution

The Monday New York Times reported how plunging prices on the recyclable materials market have put the pinch on public recycling programs. Some discussion here suggested that Madison is feeling the effects as well, with the local recycling center apparently not accepting glass (and brought up the good idea of crushing that glass and using it in asphalt—my readers are so smart!).

Elisa Sand offers some good local reporting on the recycling issue. Her report does omit glass from the list of items currently accepted at the Madison Recycling Center. More broadly, Sand finds that the city is stockpiling some materials, hoping to ride out the dip in the market and catch some better prices:

The most significant price decline can be noted in corrugated cardboard, which peaked at $120 per ton in March and has dropped to $66.52 at the end of October. Newspaper peaked at $149.25 per ton in September and a month later had dropped to $115 per ton.

The effect of the price decline, however, is an ever-increasing pile of recyclable materials baled and ready to be sold to vendors.

"We've started holding onto some materials, hoping to see an increase in those commodities," [city public works director Heath] VonEye said [Elisa Sand, "Recycling Center Sees Lower Prices," Madison Daily Leader, 2008.12.11].

Cardboard prices are still better than the 2006 low of $38 a ton. And even if those prices drop lower, I recall something I heard from my friend Xin's husband Brian, who said he knew some guys in Chicago who used those big cardboard bales to build houses. No, this is no joke about living in a cardboard box; this is for real (see examples here and here): four feet thick, those bales provide spectacular insulation, and packed tight, they don't burn easily. If Madison gets to the point where it can't sell those bales at a profit, maybe we can put them to work building affordable housing (Randy Schaefer, are you listening?)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Living in a cardboard box would feel weird...very weird indeed! Too bad that people have not figured out how to work with cardboard earlier in the 20th century. Our society would then be a lot cleaner than what it is today.


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