Forget Returning Bottles, Cardboard is the New Hot Commodity

A few years ago, the price of recycled paper was so low that municipalities were no longer getting any money from the tons of waste they brought down to the Springfield Materials Handling facility off I-91 in Springfield.  The market had tanked, we were drowning in an oversupply, and things looked bleak.  But since those dark days, things have turned for the better. Now the Chinese manufacturing machine is cranking up again and is vastly undersupplied with the boxes made from recycled US paper…and there’s a robust market for used corrugated and fine paper once again.

A story in the WSJ described how unemployed men like Jerry Leonhardt are profiting…loading pick-up trucks full of flattened boxes and merrily exchanging them at California recycling centers for about $85 per load. Sure beats hunting for returnable bottles!  The article said that in China it’s far cheaper to use boxes made locally, instead of importing the boxes, and it’s one resource that the United States is abundant in. In 2007 a ton of cardboard sold for $160, now it costs $228.

Now one of the largest players in the business, Sonoco, (which has a plant in Holyoke) is chasing after its own supply, collecting them from cruise ships and paying men like Leonhardt to bring in whatever they can find from behind supermarkets and from mall dumpsters. I have been paying Waste Management about $70 per month to come every two weeks and take away my mixed paper. I spent time last night trying to find a place in Western Mass that will pay me $85 a load for our cardboard!