Recycling is stalling in U.S., and big blue bins are one reason Almost all large facilities are operating in the red.

ELKRIDGE, Md. – Once a profitable business for cities and private employers alike, recycling in recent years has become a money-sucking enterprise. The District of Columbia, Baltimore and many counties in between are contributing millions annually to prop up one of the nation’s busiest recycling facilities, tucked in the woods 30 miles north of Washington, but it is still losing money. In fact, almost every facility like it in the country is running in the red. And Waste Management and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities nationwide are paying to dispose of their ­recyclables instead of the other way around.

In short, the business of American recycling has stalled. And industry leaders warn that the situation is worse than it appears.

“If people feel that recycling is important — and I think they do, increasingly — then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,” said David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, the nation’s largest recycler that owns the plant in Elkridge, Md., and 50 others.


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