Negative Value Recyclables : Creating a Market

In the recycling industry materials that are classed as waste can be split into 3 distinct categories. Positive value, Neutral value and Negative value.

On the one hand you have the positive value products. These are desirable products such as metal which has long been the material to make money from when recycling. This is based purely on the fact that metal is easy to recycle and the processes to do so have existed for many years. This means that there are scrap yards setup across the country that will buy your scrap metal and pay you for it. This means there is money to be made as the material has a positive value. 

On the flip side you have negative value materials, a common negative value material is tyres. Tyres are a material that cannot be easily recycled and has often gone to landfill in the past. As scrap yards will have to pay someone to dispose of these they are classed as negative value and not seen as a desirable material. 

You also have some materials that are a neutral value. This means that recycling companies are able to dispose of these materials but won’t be paid or be charged for disposal.

Materials can cross between these different states as demand for the materials grow or could fluctuate depending on the supply and demand. A good example of this is UPVC, this material is produced in great amounts and has been used to make windows and doors for the last 30 years. This material was traditionally negative value and therefore sent to landfill when it came to end of life. However in the last few years this material can now be recycled and then repurposed back into products. This has shifted this into a positive value product which has created a marketplace and an economy for recycled UPVC. This includes resellers and processors that will buy and reprocess UPVC into other products. 

Once a material reaches a positive value then the industry will react as there is money to be made, so people will start to buy this and this creates an economy around the product. The next big product in the industry predicted to make this shift between negative and positive will be used tyres. Around 3 billion tyres are sold globally each year and at the moment there is a lot of research going on to create a value and use for this type of material. 

We also have got to look at Electronic scrap to realise that although there is a need to repurpose our old scrap. Many of our old electronic items are discarded but actually contain precious materials that have a limited supply. As the use of electronics grows and our society becomes more dependant on technology we need to find an effective way of recycling the components contained within our devices.

Simon McCoy
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