ROYERSFORD PA – Going green may be great for the environment, but in the current recession even sustainable businesses face their share of troubles. The latest planet-friendly firm confronting an uncertain future is AbitibiBowater, whose bright green-and-yellow newspaper recycling bins can be found outside several Spring-Ford Area School District buildings.

Paper Retriever recycling bins outside Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School last October.

Paper Retriever recycling bins can be seen outside several S-F schools.

The giant, Canadian-based newsprint company is $6 billion in debt, and is struggling with its its lenders to agree on a restructuring plan, The New York Times reported Monday (April 6, 2009). One option being considered: a pre-arranged bankruptcy filing approved by its banks and bondholders.

AbitibiBowater’s problem is one of supply and demand. It pays districts like Spring-Ford for the used newsprint they collect. With recycling all the rage, those bins in school parking lots fill regularly. There’s plenty of supply.

On the other hand, there’s far too little demand. The primary buyers of recycled newsprint are newspaper publishers. They’re doing poorly – witness the financial woes at The (Pottstown PA) Mercury and Philadelphia Inquirer – so AbitibiBowater’s market has collapsed.

It’s unknown how the company’s Paper Retriever recycling program, which involves not only schools but churches and other non-profit groups, would be affected if the company files for bankruptcy protection. There are rays of hope, however, that the program is stable for now. At its website blog Tuesday (April 7, 2009), a Houston TX user claimed its recycling payment “check is always sent on time.”