Volunteers at Ravalli County Recycling (RCR), a non-profit recycling center located on Highway 93 north of Hamilton, are still graciously accepting corrugated cardboard, compressing it and baling it for shipment, but it is not certain how long they will be able to continue. Chip Britting, a board member who serves as a liaison for the board with the workforce, estimates that there are between 50 to 60 tons of cardboard bales currently piled in the center’s loading area awaiting transport.
Britting said that recycling cardboard has been marginal since the pulp mill in Missoula closed down. Currently, the closest plant to process recyclables is on the Washington coast. He said it is the cost of transportation over that kind of distance that cuts into the profitability of the enterprise.
Another big factor, according to Britting, is that most of the cardboard destined for recycling in recent years was bound for China, who had monopolized the market. But a year and half ago, China determined that the cardboard was too contaminated and rather abruptly quit accepting it.
“This is not the only place in the country that bales of cardboard are piling up,” said Britting.
Britting said that they are trying to keep the bales dry and wait things out for a bit and see if the price comes back to some feasible amount. But the bales are susceptible to deterioration even when placed on wooden pallets and covered. So, last week he did call in a truck from Pacific Recycling in Missoula to take a load off their hands. He said Pacific hauled off 22 tons of cardboard bales, but they got nothing for it. He said that if the cardboard isn’t recycled it will end up in a landfill or it will be burned. He would rather see it recycled.
“It’s not a good situation,” said Britting. “But what are we going to do?”
Right now, he said, they are just going to wait a bit and try to keep things dry and hope the price comes back.
Located at 759 US Highway 93 North, Ravalli Recycling business hours are Mondays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.