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Waste & Recycling January 30, 2023 12:15:54 AM

2022 Year in Review: Shaping the Future of the Industry

Waste Advantage
ScrapMonster Author
Both local governments and companies will need to become more efficient operators in this environment.

2022 Year in Review: Shaping the Future of the Industry

SEATTLE (Waste Advantage): Looking back on 2022, what are the significant changes you have seen over the past year in the waste and recycling industry?

David Biderman: I think sharply increasing interest rates will, over time, cause profound changes in the waste and recycling industry in the U.S. and Canada. It is not terribly difficult to run a business if you can borrow money or raise capital at 2 percent. It is a much different business environment when rates are in the 6 to 7 percent range, as they are in early 2023. Both local governments and companies will need to become more efficient operators in this environment.

Another significant change was California’s enactment of several new laws, including SB 54, The Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act. SB 54 establishes a very broad extended producer responsibility (EPR) program in the U.S. California also passed SB 343, Truth in Labeling for Recyclable Materials, and a companion bill about compostable product labeling. These laws will fundamentally change the industry in California over the next few years, and I suspect other states will consider—and likely enact—similar laws in 2023 or 2024.

Finally, the sharp decline in the value of recovered paper and plastic from the elevated late 2021 levels was a significant change, as municipalities and recyclers were forced to adjust to declining markets. This time, it was not due to China and National Sword.

Will Flower: The yearlong fall in commodity prices was a troubling trend for all recyclers in 2022. The words “down dramatically” were much more common in 2022 as the value of newsprint, cardboard, and plastics fell month after month. To make matters worse, fuel prices and energy costs rose contributing to hyperinflation. Ultimately, the industry spent a lot of time throughout 2022 talking with customers and municipalities to explain significant price increases to help cover the rising costs of services.

Rachel Oster: Extended producer responsibility is beginning to shape the landscape of recycling infrastructure more than ever before. With the passing of SB 54 in California and similar legislation in Colorado and Maine, the recycling industry is poised to be one of the key stakeholders in ensuring the success of a circular economy and it shows. The adoption of technology at MRFs to increase data collection and sortation capabilities is partly a reflection of the higher standards and increased requirements on our industry to support the circular economy.

Sean Jennings: By far the most significant change that the waste industry has experienced this past year has been the widespread realizations of inflation. Inflation that has shown itself in major price increases and, in the case of those companies that have not been able to pass on price, bankruptcy, which is highly unusual for the waste industry.

 Marc Rogoff: I see many organizations in my area investing in facilities that will ultimately improve their efficiency. Quite a few have constructed transfer stations in the last number of years. These facilities have been designed with a bi-level construction with a tipping floor on the upper level, and a transfer and load-out area on their lower level. This enables that refuse can be loaded into trailers through hoppers in the tipping floor. This model of operation reduces the number of hauls to the landfill or disposal location by a collection truck, thereby reducing manpower and equipment needs. It also enables the community to bypass disposal issues at the landfill. The cost benefit studies for such projects have shown long term efficiencies of such transfer station facilities.

Courtesy: www.wasteadvantagemag.com

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