Recyclers in a heap of trouble

Demand for materials decreases as supply keeps climbing

White signs on sides of Denver’s curbside recycling pick-up vehicles declare: “Recycling. It’s easier than ever.” But today recyclers say it’s increasingly difficult to move mounting heaps of plastics, cardboard, bottles and newspaper that Denver residents enthusiastically stuff into purple bins.

The problem: The ultimate end-users of recycled material — largely factories in Asia — aren’t buying as much as they did when the global economy was growing. Prices paid to recyclers, which once topped $150 a ton, plunged by 70 percent last fall and have stayed relatively low. That leaves recycling plants, such as Waste Management Inc.’s single-stream facility in Denver, struggling to get rid of the heaps. “Right now, there’s an imbalance,” said Chuck Schmidt, Waste Management’s director of recycling for 11 Western states and part of Canada.

Read More

Mexicans grasp for asylum

Rights groups are challenging the U.S. position that violence by Mexican drug cartels does not entitle a refugee to haven.

The drug-related violence plaguing Mexico has led to a surge in asylum requests from Mexicans seeking safe haven in the United States. The number of asylum petitions from Mexican citizens increased from 1,331 in 2005 to 2,231 last year. While most are denied because the U.S. does not recognize fear of violence as grounds for automatic admission, the approval rate has grown during that time from 5 percent to 13 percent. At least 68 Mexican asylum cases have been received since October 2007 in Denver’s Immigration Court — more than from any other country — with more than 3,749 cases in courts nationwide, federal records show. Lawyers who represent asylum-seekers point to the approximately 6,000 people killed over the past year in Mexican drug wars and worry that a failure to gran t more requests will lead to more deaths. Among the asylum-seekers: a former Mexican police officer named Jesus, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of repercussions against his family and friends still in Mexico. Three days after drug-cartel gunmen killed his police partner, Jesus resigned from the force. He fled northern Mexico to Denver with his family. They entered the United States legally as tourists. Now Jesus is seeking political asylum. “If I go back,” he said, “I’d be waiting for death.”

Read More