Jerry Powell (Publisher of Resource Recycling) and I were discussing this question with some of the other participants a couple of weeks ago at the Carolina Recycling Association Conference. On the way home from the conference, my coworker and I tried to come up with some easy, understandable, common ways to explain the recycling markets concept to the general public. Our ideas are below. Please leave your comments below.
My take -
Recycling markets are based on supply and demand, similar to other products. They are part of a global market and when we purchase less, we need fewer raw materials to make products, so we have too much supply and not enough demand.
For example, when markets were good in 2008 (supply was low and demand was high) people were stealing scrap metal. When markets are bad (supply is high and demand is low) some locations dispose of their recyclables. We need the public to understand these cycles and continue to recycle at all times.
Only in extreme cases are recyclables thrown away (three times in the last 30 years - according to Jerry Powell). The public just needs to put all their material in the recycling collection system, no matter what. We want them to make recycling a habit - no matter what.
It is similar to trying to buy a Wii before Christmas (supply was low and demand high) so the price is expensive. After Christmas (demand is low and supply stays the same) so the price decreases. Recycling is the same way but with different cycle times.