Magazine article World Watch

Used Materials Enter the Economic Mainstream

Magazine article World Watch

Used Materials Enter the Economic Mainstream

Article excerpt

The U.S. recycling industry passed a landmark last October, as the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) launched its Recyclables Exchange. Secondary materials such as glass, PET and HDPE plastics, and paper now have their own market on the CBOT, which for 148 years has been one of the world's foremost trading systems for a wide range of commodities, from pork bellies to silver.

The new exchange cements the newfound status of recycled materials as legitimate commodities. For the first time, there is a central U.S. marketplace for used materials, just as there is for primary commodities like wood pulp and plastic resins. Though the exchange does not yet sell futures contracts in old newspapers, as it does for wheat, wood, or metals, the system should eventually provide a barometer of market conditions for used materials. In the long run, the exchange's developers hope that it will evolve into a futures market, helping smooth out the large price fluctuations that have plagued the recycling industry in recent decades.

The market was developed over the last three years by a partnership that includes the CBOT, the National Recycling Coalition and its Recycling Advisory Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the New York State Office of Recycling Market Development, and the Clean Washington Center (an arm of Washington state's economic development department). Buyers and sellers connect to the system using a personal computer and modem. They can then post and review listings with details on material type, quantity, quality, price, and other information. …

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