Ozark County Recycling Center is in trouble as recyclables’ prices fall

Ozark County Recycling Center employees Eric Lee, left, and Truman King show some of the bales of cardboard that will be stored until prices rise – or the center runs out of room to store them. Ozark County Times/Amelia LaMair

At the Ozark County Recycling Center, plastic bottles are compressed into bales in the machine at front left. The bales farther back in the building are ready to be shipped off. Awhile ago, plastic was selling for between 27 and 30 cents a pound, but the current price is just 5 cents. In past years, cardboard bales sold for as much as $200 a bale; prices are predicted to drop to $5 a bale by January. Ozark County Times/Amelia LaMair

Eastern Ozark County Commissioner Gary Collins gave a troubling update on the county’s recycling center at Monday’s regular meeting of the Ozark County Commission. Due to global economic forces, including the trade war with China, prices for recyclable materials have dropped significantly, Collins said, and with no good market to sell cardboard, paper, plastic or metal to, recyclables are piling up at the county’s recycling center on County Road 502.

Recycling center employees Eric Lee and Truman King were busy rearranging 170 bales of cardboard Monday, trying to make room to store them as the county waits, hoping prices will rise. Until recently, cardboard brought as much as $120 a ton, about $200 per bale, Lee said, but the last time the recycling center sold cardboard it only received $30 a bale. Prices are predicted to drop to just $5 a bale by January if things continue as they are – a concern because it costs the recycling center $48 to make each bale of cardboard.

“They won’t even pay for mixed paper,” said Lee, who added that prices were the worst he’d seen in his 24 years of recycling work.

The recycling center also has 28 bales of plastic waiting to be shipped. A while ago, plastic was selling for between 27 and 30 cents a pound, but the current price is just 5 cents.

There is still an outlet for glass, but it doesn't bring in any revenue. After recycling center employees crush it and put it into totes, a glass company from Kansas City picks it up- not paying for it but also not charging to haul it away. 


Lee said recycling centers in Cabool, Rogersville and Aurora have closed because they can’t compete, and people from Douglas County as well as Mountain Home, Arkansas, have been bringing their recycling to Ozark County.

The recycling center opened in the early 1990s, and commissioners believe it has had a significant impact on reducing roadside trash and residential dumps around the county. Before the recycling center opened, “the ditches were full of water heaters, trash bags and tires... we don’t want that again,” said Presiding Commissioner John Turner. 

Although grant funds help pay for the center’s employees and equipment, the decrease in revenue causes serious concerns. The recycling center comes under Ozark County’s general revenue fund, so shortfalls in the revenues from the sale of recyclable materials will have to be made up elsewhere, the commissioners said.

For the time being, they agreed the facility will continue to operate as normal. “We’ll keep on trying to make it work,” said Collins. “I hope it works out so we don’t have to close the center because it’s working good and keeping things clean.“

The recycling center is open from 7 a.m. to 3:30 Monday through Friday. It accepts plastic marked with numbers 1 or 2, glass, tin and aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, used motor oil and all metals, including appliances.  Recycling is free, and household trash can also be disposed of for $2 a bag.

Ozark County Times

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