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Local recycling center struggles because of low market prices

Innovative Industries stops taking plastics

CARTHAGE, Mo. - Carthage resident Jamie Isbel wears a lot of different hats for his job... and loves it. 

"I unload cardboard, plastic and the trailers and take the dumpster out," explains Isbel. 

One of Isbel's favorite parts of his job at Innovative Industries in Carthage is unloading plastic. 

Something he hasn't been able to do much lately. 

Innovative works with people with disabilities -- and stopped accepting plastics at the end of September because of the poor recycling market. 

"Back in March, give or take a month or two, the bottom really kind of fell out of the recycling market," explains Jeff Jones, Executive Director of Innovative Industries. "Some of that's probably tied to trade relations with China."

Jones explains the majority of the recycled materials in the country used to be sent to China to be turned in goods. 

But, China has restricted what materials they will import... causing the value of most plastics to plummet. 

"The high in this time from was around 35 cents per pound, and now it's less than three cents per pound. So, it's below the break-even point," says Jones. 

Jones explains that paper and cardboard markets have been hit hard as well. For example, the mixed paper used to be between 80 and 100 dollars per ton, and now it's dropped down to around five dollars per ton. 

Making it harder for Jones to find the money to pay employees. 

So now, he and the rest of the board of directors are working on different ideas for a long term plan. 

"Really one of the things we've been working on is to find a product to produce from the waste. One, it'll consume what we're doing so we can become a consumer instead of just a producer. And it'll give us a product maybe to sell," says Jones. "We work hard to find other things for our team to do when we have something like this happen."

Jones says they are also thinking about starting something like a curbside recycling program, to bring in some revenue. 

Carthage residents can still take their plastics to the Carthage recycling center. 

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