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JUNE 30 - JULY 08, 2015

As Recycling Industry Crumbles Nationally Dyster's Plan Here Becomes More Bizarre

By Mike Hudson

JUNE 30, 2015

The larger one (left) is for recycling and the smaller one (right) is for refuse, the opposite of every other city in America. And even Dyster's moral righteousness about recycling has proven to be false. See Washington Post's investigative series on the bogus claimed benefits of recycling.

Timing is everything, a wise man once said, and the timing of the Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster’s recycling initiative couldn’t possibly have been worse.

Startup costs of $2.3 million to buy and deliver some 10,000 new blue (64 gallon) refuse totes and (96 gallon)recycling green totes and $78,000 a year for city employees to oversee the program came at a time when the recycling industry is slumping badly.

As more and more paper, glass, plastic and metal for recycling has come onto the market, prices for the commodities have dropped precipitously.

Executives at the nation’s largest recycling company, Waste Management, announced in April that tumbling prices of recycled materials and lower recycling volumes cut into its revenue in the first quarter, leading the company to lower its profit forecasts. Executives also pointed to worsening economics around handling glass, which has become a money loser for the Houston-based company.

Four of the company’s largest recycling plants were closed earlier this year.

The average prices of recycled commodities fell 14 percent from January to March, a decline that was hard for Waste Management to absorb, Chief Executive David Steiner said.

“Recycling is in a crisis,” Steiner said in an interview. “It isn’t profitable for us, and we have to react to that by shutting down plants.”

Steiner said Waste Management’s recycling division lost $13 million during the quarter. More plant closures are planned, he said.

“It’s as low as it’s ever been, but we haven’t seen any indication of a bottom,” Steiner said of prices for recycled materials.

Market values of used plastics have fallen sharply, a decline some in the industry have attributed to lower crude oil prices, which have pushed down the cost of producing new plastic and left manufacturers less keen to work with recycled material. Slower economic growth in China and other countries also has reduced demand for used paper and other recycled commodities. Even prices of used metals are down.

“If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,” said Steiner.

Dyster’s recycling program went into effect of August of 2014.

Although Dyster claimed the program would save the city $500,000 annually, it quickly became apparent that the city would lose money. Small businesses faced increased costs and residents faced fines and other sanctions for not complying. Outraged taxpayers, led by Third Street businessman and longtime Dyster supporter Craig Avery, called publicly for the resignation of Donna Owens who Dyster credited for creating the plan.

Prior to the new trash program being implemented, the recycling rate in Niagara Falls was the lowest in Western New York at an estimated four percent. A 47 percent increase announced by Dyster brought the rate up to just below 6 percent, which is still about the lowest in the region.

In 2013, the last full year prior to Dyster's bright trash idea, the city paid Modern Disposal Inc. of Lewiston $2.9 million for trash collection.

In 2014, with the recycling scheme going into effect in August, the cost to city residents was $3.1 million.

And, in 2015, the first full year city residents will get to enjoy the fruits of Dyster's garbage collecting scheme, reliable projections show that taxpayers will be socked with a whopping $3.6 million to $3.8 million tab.

And that doesn't even count the $2.3 million the city paid for the ridiculously small, micro chipped totes in the first place.

If the average tote lasts 7 years that means in addition to the increased costs, the lessening of services, the loss of 100’s of businesses that do not get service, the city must budget for about $300,000 per year for new totes as old ones are worn out or broken.

Something no one but the Reporter bothered to mention to this date.

That’s right there was a decrease in garbage service, a stupid plan for the reversal for the standard tote sizes – with the recycling totes larger than the refuse totes – a decrease in the number of taxpaying businesses that got service, a decrease in bulk trash removal, a decrease in the amount of trash people could throw out, and an increase in price – not counting the totes.

And it was all built around Dyster’s claim about the importance of recycling!

Meantime glass, metal and plastic recycling costs around $240 per ton, almost double what it costs to just throw it away.

Recycling costs vary by city according to a set of factors, including proximity to landfills, labor costs, amount and method of recycling and real estate prices.

"Recycling has failed as an economic proposition for municipalities," said Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, a conservative think tank. "It's not a question of whether we want to pay, it's how do we want to spend scarce resources. Is it worth teachers, firemen, police on the beat?"

John Tierney, a reporter who wrote a controversial and influential 1996 New York Times magazine story titled "Recycling Is Garbage” wrote, “Mandatory recycling programs… offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups – politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations and waste handling corporations -- while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America…”

A common statistic cited by recycling critics is that the next 1,000 years-worth of trash would only fill a 35-square mile landfill that is 100 yards deep. Not something you want to live near, of course, but not exactly Earth-swallowing, either.

By creating a problem where none existed, Dyster has led the city into an expensive crisis he refuses to see.





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