Recycling puts Berkeley’s budget in the red

The biggest source of Berkeley,California’s budget collapse is the loss of $4 million in recycling revenues. Berkeley is one of the few cities in the US with its own garbage and refuse pickup program.With the recession, people are buying less and building less. The result is a decreased need for trash pickup. And not only is there less garbage, Robert Reed of Recology Sunset Scavenger notes in the SFGate, “the nature of garbage changes.” Construction debris revenues are down 15 percent, in spite of a 10 percent rate hike. Residents switching to smaller trash bins (the city charges for the size of the can) leading to an 8 percent reduction in recycling revenues.

Also affecting the program: the value of ‘recycling commodities‘ has also declined. Aluminum is down from $1,908 a ton to $1,200 a ton.

While the decline in trash pickup may hurt the city’s budget, Berkeley’s residents are changing their behavior.They are recycling more at home and reusing materials. They are buying less. While there is less trash in landfills, according to University of Chicago Ph.D student Alexi Savov, less trash is also a good proxy indicator of less economic consumption.