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Rough times for Raven

The world wide economic downtown has had an impact on the most unlikely organization possible.The Raven Recycling Society of Whitehorse, Yukon, has…

The world wide economic downtown has had an impact on the most unlikely organization possible.

The Raven Recycling Society of Whitehorse, Yukon, has been hit, and hit hard.

It is having a tough time finding buyers for all the recyclable material it diverts from Yukon landfills.

Raven accepts a wide variety of recyclable materials from the general public, private businesses and all levels of government.

These included cardboard, paper, glass jars, plastic containers as well as every type of beverage container.

Refunds are given on the beverage containers and aluminum, brass and copper are purchased from the general public.

All the other materials are accepted but no money changes hands.

All of the materials sorted and baled by category and then sold to recycling brokers and dealers who in turn sell it to factories that make it into new items.

The money raised from these sales are used to the keep the Raven Recycling Society up and running.

The problem is that the price for any and all recyclable commodities has collapsed.

This is because world wide people have cut back on consuming.

This was caused mainly by the whole sub-prime mortgage mess in the United States, and unsustainable levels of debt by individuals and institutions.

The consumption downturn, while generally good for the environment, means less demand for raw materials to make more products, be they motor vehicles or postcards.

Less demand for raw materials means less demand for recyclable materials, such as the cardboard and plastic currently piling up in the Raven Recycling yard.

The commodity price collapse means Raven has trouble getting money for the items that Yukoners are keen to recycle.

Here are some examples of how much prices have dropped.

A month ago Raven was getting about $165 a ton for cardboard.

Now it is fortunate if it can get $60 a ton.

Given that it costs about $70 a ton to pay for trucking from Whitehorse to southern recycling processors and brokers it means Raven would lose $10 per ton to recycle cardboard.

Cardboard is one of the recyclable items that still has a value.

Certain plastic recyclables, which include yoghurt and margarine containers, have no value at the current time.

This does not mean they are worth zero dollars.

It means the southern processors have refused to accept them.

Raven cannot even pay them to take them.

They have, at least for the moment, ceased to be a commodity.

In the short term Raven can ride this out but there will be noticeable impacts.

The general public will see more items being stockpiled in the Raven yard.

When prices on selected commodities recover to the point it makes fiscal sense to ship then they will leave the yard.

However, given that Raven is not receiving any money for most of the recyclables currently being dropped off by the general public there will be some changes.

It takes labour, effort and money to sort out all those recyclables and to crush them into the half-ton bales that are suitable for trucking.

To cover these costs Raven is going to have to change its labour model.

Employees who might have been working five days a week are now working four.

This contraction of the labour force means Raven cannot be open on Sundays.

In addition, Raven has renegotiated its mortgage to provide a financial cushion to keep operating for the next six months.

This means that the money spent servicing this new mortgage means less funds for programs such as education or accepting new commodities for recycling.

Other budgetary cutbacks include a complete freeze on all discretionary spending.

Depending on the severity and the extend of the global crises Raven could be in trouble.

Should the worse come to pass, Raven would have to stop accepting recyclables such as cardboard and yoghurt containers and concentrate solely on being a bottle and can refund centre.

This possibility is many months away but the mere fact it is being theorized shows the seriousness of the situation.

For now Raven Recycling continues to accept all the items it normally does and the bottle refund centre is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5:30.

Those members of the public who wish to do so may drop off refundable bottles and cans through the donation slot by the main doors.

These refunds will help support Raven over the next few months.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist. He has a part-time work contract with the Raven Recycling Society.