A rebound in the market for recycled cardboard and an agreement with a new buyer for the used packaging material have allowed the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority to resume collection of cardboard at its 600 Smith St. drop-off site in Charleston starting Jan. 2.
Due mainly to a lack of buyers’ demand, cardboard recycling came to a halt at the Charleston facility last May.
“By late spring, the market had tanked out, and we were sitting on 55 bales [weighing 1,200 to 1,500 pounds each] of recycled cardboard we couldn’t get rid of,” said David Armstrong, Kanawha County’s representative on the Solid Waste Authority’s Board of Directors.
But when meeting recently with a prospective buyer for recycled plastic, the buyer learned that the KCSWA also had a surplus of cardboard and ended up buying 41,000 pounds of it at $35 per ton.
“Since word got out that we will be taking in cardboard again, a second buyer has reached out to see if what we have would be of interest to them, and we will be meeting with them, too,” Armstrong said.
The market for cardboard and many other recyclables is subject to periods of boom and bust, Armstrong said, adding that the current cycle of cardboard demand should keep recycling bins open for at least another 18 months or so.
“Our goal isn’t to make money,” Armstrong said. “All we want is just to break even so we can continue to make recycling available.”
Armstrong urged all cardboard recyclers to break down boxes into flat sections to accommodate baling and handling, and allow collection bins to hold more material. The Slack Street facility will be equipped with cardboard collection bins with slots in their sides to accommodate broken-down boxes only.
Cardboard boxes left intact outside the bins are likely to get wet, negating their use in the recycling process.
“Wet cardboard will end up in the landfill, so we need the community’s help to make sure it goes to recyclers, instead,” Armstrong said. “We only have two employees, and they spend a lot of their work week at our baling facility at Edens Fork.”
In another development, the Solid Waste Authority will offer Saturday recycling hours at Slack Street again this year, from 8 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of each month, starting Jan. 11. The hours have been added to accommodate recyclers who work during the weekday collection hours.