The plastics recycling business is so marginally profitable that success in it is very difficult. The economics barely work.
The option you didn’t mention is that we could have eventually said, “screw it, we’re out.” Which is actually what we did, and what plenty of other plastics recyclers have done, but that’s another, very complicated story, and tied more to government reluctance to invest in and mandate recycling.
Whether or not my partners and I personally stayed in the business (and I’m glad we didn’t) somebody is always going to run businesses that pay minimum wage or close to it.
My point here is that in a sane society, the government-mandated minimum wage should be a living wage.