Trade Disputes Put a Hurting on Small Recyclers

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It’s hot and Jose Reyes a small recycler from Daly City Ca slogs through traffic in his small dually toyota. He gets up early in the morning and services all his accounts. All of which he has amassed through years of straight hustle. For a while he had to fight tooth and nail to avoid competitors from moving in on his accounts.

Nowadays few compete with him. The fuel prices, hard work and low commodity prices keep them at bay. He desperately races to a local recycler. All this to receive around 50 dollars per ton for the bounty in the back of his miniature rig.

“I get about 1 to 1 and a half ton on this rig, more if it’s heavy metal like rotors”.

The only way Jose makes money is if he is able to separate his wares and recycles the more sought after non ferrous metals like: aluminum, copper and brass. Those non ferrous commodities are what enables Jose to make about $120 dollars a day working from sunup to sundown. Not exactly the American dream after he pays for fuel, insurance, tolls and other expenses.

“The truth is I do this because the freedom is great, definitely not for the money,” he said.

Price of scrap has plummeted. Unfortunately for small recyclers and large recyclers alike the price of prepared and unprepared steel has plummeted. Not only that, the price of the non ferrous metals has taken a beating as well. China not buying as much. Of course this is largely due to our president slugging it out with China in the form of tariffs and trade restrictions.

There are still other countries who buy steel. However, China has become a manufacturing powerhouse and has wielded its economic buying power like a sword. Apparently many recyclers are feeling like they are being slaughtered. Price hasn’t been this bad since 2008

According to a ​eco-dumpster​, a local veteran run dumpster service who prides itself on recycling it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recycle many former commodities.

For example, “in the past, we could drop off tons of mixed recyclable paper and it would get recycled.” Today, the reality is a lot of the recyclers don’t even want the mixed paper.

Local Governments Want Green. Local governments have imposed mandatory recycling programs. Many times these programs are not backed with the proper infrastructure. One program which has taken a beating is mattress recycling. In the past mattresses were being recycled free of charge.

In the San Francisco Bay Area one of the most green areas in the nation the main recycler in the bay area was forced to move to the central valley due to difficulty finding staff and the high price to operate in the San Francisco Bay area. San Francisco Bay Area: Green Irony Although the Bay Area is considered very green the truth is many recyclers are struggling to even find industrial land in which to operate.

A lot of formerly industrial land is becoming rezoned to accommodate large condo developments. One prime example is Oakland where the formerly industrial friendly city is now housing the San Francisco tech overflows. 


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