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With a struggling economy, many are rushing to recycle

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Significant increases in metal prices and the high costs of food and fuel are taking more from people's paychecks and leading to a new source of extra income—recycling.

Scrap sellers include construction workers, electricians, plumbers and people who just collect junk to sell.

"They're bringing in everything," says Steven Kowalsky, president of Empire Recycling Corp., Utica, N.Y. "They're bringing in scrap iron and steel, aluminum, brass, stainless steel."

David Fitzsimmons, owner of Fitzsimmons Metal Co., a recycling facility in Glenshaw, Pa., says about 80 people come through his facility daily, which is twice the amount he saw six months ago. Empire Recycling sees about 250 to 300 people a day compared with 150 people previously.

Some people can make a decent amount of money recycling scraps. Copper is selling for about $3 per pound compared with less than $1 per pound a few years ago. Aluminum cans sell for 70 or 80 cents per pound compared to 30 cents previously. And during the past seven years, steel has increased from $40 per gross ton to more than $200 per gross ton.

Kowalsky says commodity prices are making recycling more appealing at the same time other costs are rising.

"It's kind of like the perfect storm," he says.

People who work on construction sites or other projects are gathering pipes and even small leftover wires for recycling. And small-business owners are recycling to try to cut trash hauling fees, which have increased with fuel costs.

Unfortunately, with the appeal of recycling comes theft, which has risen during the past year regarding recyclable materials. Some state legislatures have moved to enact new laws or change existing laws to fight the problem.


8/14/2008

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