Overcoming Recycling Challenges Today

Operating a recycling program today is challenging. A successful recycling operation requires a high volume of materials and proximity to a market to sell the materials because trucks, fuel, and staff can be expensive. Recycled materials are a commodity, and commodity pricing is determined by supply and demand. The downturn in global markets, especially China, and more stringent contamination standards have led to lower prices. Unfortunately, right now, there aren’t enough markets in Texas.

Reasons to Continue Providing A Recycling Program

  • Despite the current challenges, a recycling program can still provide important benefits to a community.
  • Recycling programs offer a significant economic impact, providing more than 10,000 direct jobs in the Houston-Galveston region.
  • Providing a curbside or drop off recycling program is perceived as a quality of life factor and may be an incentive for more people or businesses to locate in your community.
  • While temporarily discontinuing or reducing recycling services may be an attractive short-term option, reinstating or scaling up a scaled-down program can also be time-consuming and costly. In the long run, it may be better to ride out the storm. 
  • Recycling materials are a commodity and the prices fluctuate. Just like the stock market, even if you are just breaking even, you must continue to invest in your program to make money in the long run. 

What Can You Do?

  • Ensure you have good quality materials with decreased contamination through education using clear messaging about what is recyclable.
  • Consider measures to increase recycling quality and decrease contamination, such as inspection/tagging programs for curbside and contamination fines.
  • Operate as efficiently and conveniently as possible with hours and days open that meet the needs of your community.
  • Foster partnerships and community ambassador programs and offer special activities, such as tours of facilities to gain community and educate residents.


While there’s no magic wand or quick fix for overcoming recycling challenges, many resources are available for recycling programs across the state, including: 

Recycling Basics
Recycling Partnership
State of Texas Alliance for Recycling City Resources
Waste Management Recycling Right