Funding Challenges Await Despite Change in Recycling Market

If there has been one positive outcome from the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Sweetwater County, it's been a turnaround of the recycling market.
Funding Challenges Await Despite Change in Recycling Market

The staff at Ray Lovato Recycling Center are few in number, but mighty in purpose. Photo by Brayden Flack.

ROCK SPRINGS — Matt Dillon, manager of the Ray Lovato Recycling Center, said that although many businesses have slowed down, the recycling center has been busier than ever.

Increased demand for cardboard over the last six weeks has driven up the price. The demand for papered products due to COVID-19 has been the driving force behind the current market.

In December 2019, Dillon said the price per ton for cardboard was $5-10. Those who drove past the recycling center would’ve noticed bales of cardboard laying everywhere due to the inability to bring revenue in off of recycling the cardboard.

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In February, the price per ton rose to $20 a ton, bringing in an average of $140 in revenue per shipment.

Since then, the market price has now reached $100 per ton. On average, a shipment of cardboard will bring in around $1,500 of revenue.

The recycling center hopes to cash in while cardboard is hot. With the fiscal year coming to a close on June 30, every penny matters for the recycling center’s future.

Bales of cardboard wait to be shipped off. Photo by Brayden Flack.

Commercial pickup service has slowed down with business closures, but more individuals are showing up at the doors of the recycling center. With more time being spent at home, more people are bringing in recyclables. Dillon said that 5-10 first-time visitors are dropping off their recyclables every week.

According to Dillon, most people have brought in a lot of plastics and paperboard products.

“I’m looking for everything we can get,” Dillon said. “Just to help ourselves out for the upcoming budget year.”

Funding Still A Concern

Despite the market’s turnaround, the recycling center cannot survive without outside funding. With the fiscal year ending right around the corner, the stresses of funding are once again knocking at the door.

The City of Rock Springs, along with Solid Waste District No. 1, have been the main source of funding over the years. However, unlike the recycling market, the economy has spiraled downward.

Ray Lovato Recycling Center Board President Devon Brubaker said the recycling center requested around $218,000 from both the city of Rock Springs and Solid Waste District No. 1. It was the same request they put in last year. The funding request would aim to support the recycling center’s current operating costs and would not include any room for growth, according to Brubaker.

The City of Rock Springs’ preliminary budget, which was approved on May 5, did not include any funding set aside for the recycling center, and the city still has $1.24 million to cut from the budget.

As for Solid Waste District No. 1, the monthly board meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, May 11, at 5:30 pm. Part of that meeting will include discussion on the recycling center’s funding request.

Taking advantage of the hot market and reaching out for funding is about all the recycling center can do to stay afloat in a business that is not profitable.

Whether it’s community members bringing in recyclables or outside entities providing funding, working together appears to be the best alternative to the recycling center’s continuous challenges.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunities in front of us, we just need to work together to accomplish them,” Brubaker said.