Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another victim of the economy . . . recycling

More evidence of the down turn in the economy is demonstrated by the decreased demand for packaging made from recycled materials.

The past couple of years have been very, very good to waste paper recycling exporters. The demand from Asia has been huge. Speaking in terms of volume, waste paper is one of our top exports. Unfortunately, over the last three months, the recycling industry has slowed due to the decline in consumer spending. Bales and bales of abandoned cardboard and newsprint just sit in Chinese ports. Material that was previously selling for $150 a ton was suddenly selling for $20. Recycling exporters were stunned.

The question then becomes – If China doesn’t want our recycling anymore, what happens to it? It may just end up in a landfill. Recycling (like most things) is based on an economic need. The sad fact is that no one is going to recycle if there is no money in it. Local recycling efforts are feasible because is it easier and cheaper to coordinate; however, not all recycling efforts are that simple. Whatever happened to reduce, reuse, recycle?

From NPR: Recycling Industry Slows as Consumers Shop Less

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Rising Cost of Higher Education

As the United States continues its attempts at economic recovery, the New York Times is reporting on another trend that may have more dire long-term implications. While most are aware of the ever increasing costs of college tuition, a recent report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education finds that in the not so distant future many Americans will not be able to afford higher education.

“Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent.” It is argued that if this trend continues at a similar rate, a college education will no longer be affordable for many people. College loans have doubled in the last ten years, and low income families – who would be hit the hardest by such an increase – do not receive sufficient grant money to offset this increase in price.

Some are worrying that a reduction in the number of people who afford college would increase the educational gap between the United States and the rest of the world. Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has stated that, “Already, we’re one of the few countries where 25- to 34-year-olds are less educated than older workers.” With such an educational disadvantage, the United States could easily fall behind many other countries in several important areas.

Public universities have acknowledged the rising tuition costs, but point to the options that are available to students today. People have the option to go to a community college (average tuition fee of $3,200.00), a private research institution (average tuition fee of $33,000.00) or a number of alternatives in between.

In order to help ensure a strong economy, education is a key factor. With the rest of the world recognizing the importance of higher education, the United States cannot ignore this potential problem. Luckily, there are more cost feasible choices for students (i.e. community college) which can provide students with useful skills and knowledge. However, for some these community colleges may not provide the education they are seeking; if tuition increases at the rates projected, these students may have to forego the specialized learning available at some private institutions, causing a lack of qualified employees in some key occupations.