Wednesday, July 09, 2008

High metal prices help clean up Eastern Kentucky

"Skyrocketing costs of scrap metal have created a silver — or should we say steel — lining to economic and environmental woes. Collecting scrap not only brings in extra money, but also encourages citizens to clean up unsightly refuse," Anna Tong writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "The effects are magnified in Eastern Kentucky, a region with a chronic problem of improper disposal — or no disposal at all — of junk cars and appliances. Now, the prospect of getting fast cash is motivating a mass clean-up of litter, traditionally the work of prison inmates and environmentalists."

Gerald Hines, solid waste coordinator in Pulaski County, on the edge of the rugged Cumberland Plateau in Southern Kentucky, said the county is “50 percent cleaner” in recent months. “In our lifetime, scrap may not be as high again as it is now.” The Institute of Scrap Recycling says iron and steel sorted by processors fetched $520 a ton in May, way up from $100 five years ago, mainly because of demand from fast-growing China and India. One dealer with three yards in Eastern Kentucky is paying initial sellers $180 a ton. He pays $2 to $4 a pound for copper.

There's a downside, of course. "There have been numerous cases of individuals who've been arrested for stealing everything from manhole covers to copper wiring to sell," Tong notes. (Read more) Herald-Leader photo by Brad Luttrell: Levi Chaffins, right, waited for Junior Watkins, on top of truck, and Larry Spencher to finish unloading at Mister Metal Recycling in Salyersville, Ky., on June 25.

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