NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 9, 2006

More metal is being recycled today than just a few years ago, and for no reason other than economic self-interest, says Michael Coulter political science professor at Grove City College.

And while some may be surprised that a government program is not behind the increased recycling, according to Bob Garino, director of commodities at the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the reason is simple: Scrap supply responds positively to price.

And according to the ISRI, scrap metal prices have increased dramatically:

  • The monthly average price for copper in 2003 at $0.81 per pound; in 2005 it was nearly twice that amount -- $1.59 per pound.
  • During the same period, the price of aluminum has increased about 32 percent, zinc by 60 percent and nickel by nearly 30 percent.
  • The price for heavy-melt steel has been more than $200 per ton each month in 2006, whereas the average monthly price in 2003 was $120.

Economic incentive is helping clean up areas that many local officials have been trying for years, doing so without any need for governmental mandate.  "This is the market at work and not a deliberate act of the government," said Jane S. Shaw, senior fellow at the Property and Environment Resource Center.

Source: Michael Coulter, "Voluntary Recycling Programs a Success Without Mandates," Environment and Climate News, October 2006.


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