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How to Cost-Effectively Ship Recyclables to Their End Market

There are a number of “costs” associated with recyclables that are sometimes overlooked by the average person. Consider the range of costs for picking up and transporting material to the recycling facility end market. If a trailer load of baled paper is being picked up and shipped directly to a paper mill, the transportation cost per ton would be minimal when calculated on a per ton basis. If this “mill” is located in India or China, then that cost can increase dramatically.

But what about the truck that stops at the end of your driveway each week to pick up your bin of commingled materials?  These automated collection trucks can cost $300,000 or more. They also average 5-7 miles per gallon, so the cost to purchase and operate trucks for residential recycling is considerably high. On top of that, add the hourly wage earned by competent drivers.

There are many additional costs that go into the proper sorting and processing of these recyclables prior to being marketable. These include, but are not limited to, real estate, electricity, taxes, cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining equipment such as conveyors, sorters, balers, loaders, forklifts, and more.

Operators of recycling facilities and transportation fleets are constantly reviewing and attempting to keep these costs under control. This can be done by maintaining a fuel efficient fleet, efficient route planning, reducing electric costs by installing sustainable production, such as solar, and more.

Another option is shipping material via rail rather than by truck to the end market.  Though it is thought of as a dated mode of transportation, rail is much more cost effective. According the CSX website, shipping by rail is four times more efficient than shipping by truck. CSX states that one ton of freight can be moved 470 miles on a single gallon of fuel, whereas the average over-the-road truck moves a ton of freight only 134 miles on a gallon of fuel.

Recycling is a complicated and resource-intensive industry. Market forces change the value of materials and the cost of doing business on a near daily basis. Be sure you partner with a recycling company that knows what it takes to operate efficiently and honorably.

Download our 10 Questions to ask when hiring a Recycling Company PDF to learn more.