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Monday, January 13, 2003

Recycling doesn't have to cost the earth. In New York, family-owned scrap metal company Hugo Neu is proving that recycling can be profitable.

The company, which processed much of the twisted steel from the World Trade Center, has offered to pay New York City $5.15 a ton for all the tuna cans and plastic water bottles New Yorkers can sort. Six other bids for New York's combined metal and plastic recycling contract required the city to pay upwards of $67 per ton for the privilege of having its waste recycled.

New York's plastic and glass recycling programme was suspended last summer because it was costing the city too much money. Hugo Neu's surprise offer to pay the city for its metal and plastic waste has "put recycling back on the table in New York" (New York Times, 9 Jan). The City Council is also considering bids to reinstate glass recycling, which is costly and problematic. Again, Hugo Neu's bid has come in lowest.

If their bid is successful, Hugo Neu's example could help reverse the currently gloomy outlook on the costs of recycling.