Everything needs a market. Even recycling. You'd think that once you dump something in a recycling container it magically transforms into a clean, green, back-to-nature product... or melts away.

Unfortunately it's not like that.

Recycling other people's waste is a dirty, dusty, sticky, somewhat dangerous affair. Each element separated out is passed on to a processor or someone else who further works it beyond what you can.

And when the market for elements drops, there's problems.

The Times has the details - when demand for these falls, things pile up. Where once you had recycled items moving smoothly from consumer to recycler to processor / re-manufacturer, recycling centres start to look worse than the problem they're trying to solve.

It's a huge issue world-wide. Not only has demand for certain elements fallen, but the bottom has crashed out of the commodities market. A recycler who was previously being paid a buck for a kilo of steel is now being paid a quarter of that. Name a metal, and it's the same story. Plastics, glass, everything is bottoming out.

Costs of collection and processing haven't fallen though.

So everyone waits. Sorted waste piles up, empty spaces are found for more - and we wait. For better days, for better prices - and hope we don't have to flog everything at a gigantic loss simply to clear the floor again.

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