The president of Southern Tier Recycling said Monday the company will rebuild its Recycling Plant in Apalachin after was destroyed earlier this month by a massive fire. At the same time, says it will continue to play a leadership role in the Southern Tier’s recycling industry. Investigators currently believe the fire was ignited by a crushed lithium battery or a discarded mobile telephone.
A news release from the company noted: There are scores of recycling facilities nationwide that experience similar fires as Southern Tier Recycling (STR) from crushed batteries. Once a spark is ignited, the contents of the building, paper and plastics provide the fuel to destroy the facility even with the presence of fire suppression equipment in the building. However, STR emphasized that despite this unfortunate event, the company is making every accommodation possible to continue the smooth operation of services until the new facility is up and running.
Robert Taylor Jr., president of Southern Tier Recycling, stated, “The loss of the Southern Tier Recycling facility was a devastating event in the history of our company; however, the area’s recycling programs will continue to be unimpeded and all of our recycling partners across the region should continue business as usual, as we will.”
To allow the uninterrupted collection and processing of area recyclables, STR repurposed its adjacent waste transfer station for recyclables on the following Monday, January 6. STR is pleased to report that recyclable volumes received at the transfer station are consistent with previous volumes despite the force majeure conditions. This process will continue until the new facility is constructed, equipped and opened. STR believes that the $5 million reconstructed facility will be operational in the fourth quarter of this year.
Presently, STR has to accept and load the incoming volume to be delivered to other merchant facilities. It is now paying to have the recyclables transported between 80-100 miles to other facilities in the region and is paying $110 per ton to the facilities to process its material. Previously, STR accepted the material and used its own equipment to process and then sell the sorted material. Exacerbating the situation is the worldwide market price depression for recycling products as a result of China’s, the world largest purchaser of recyclable material, forbidding the importation of much of the United States’ recycling. This has caused a glut in the market and has driven commodity prices down, in some cases to unprofitable levels and even where there is no revenue at all received for some commodities.
Previously, STR covered its expenses by marketing its sorted material to world markets. This allowed STR to accept most of the incoming material at no charge to its customers. Instead of selling its material, it is now paying approximately $157 per ton to get Southern Tier’s recyclables processed and available to the market. This is an untenable situation; the company cannot afford to continue this practice for any extended period. On an interim basis, STR will be charging a fee to accept recycling until the new facility is open. However, other recycling plants in the Northeast like STR are currently charging between $100-$135 per ton for processing only. Should STR not reopen and no other facility with adequate capacity opens in the area, residents of the Southern Tier area could find themselves paying $160 to $200 per ton to have the recyclables used again.
While the interruption caused by the fire is truly unfortunate for the residents of the Southern Tier, STR is moving as quickly as possible to support the area’s recycling program’s return to normalcy.