China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials up until officials made the announcement last summer that they will no longer be taking other country’s mixed paper and plastic recyclables; and this is a huge problem for America’s waste management systems and economy.
Implications or the U.S.
When you leave your blue bin out front, your local government can pick it up and process the waste because they get paid for the recyclables in it. Before this ban, a city could sell recycling for $85 to $100 a ton. However, because recycling centers now have nowhere to sell their materials to, many local governments are making nothing from recycling systems according to News Observer.
The surplus of materials has gotten so bad in some areas that some companies and local governments are having to pay to send recyclable materials to landfills, and tax payers like you are having to pay for the increase in cost.
That isn’t the worst of it either, keeping recycling systems up and running has become so costly that many have begun to shut down shut down. Leaving people out of work and cities without the ability to recycle.
Why China Changed Course
When recycling first gained traction, many counties in America required goods to be sorted and cleaned, which made the bails of recycling of better quality worth more, however as our recycling system has begun to collapse so too have the requirements. This means that we have been providing buyers, like China, with subpar materials.
China relied on this system to provide them with raw materials for their factories, however because of the lapse in quality control much of what they received was contaminated with garbage or even hazardous waste. Because of this, China told the World Trade Organization that it would no longer be importing 24 types of waste.
According to NPR, China decided to stop importing recycling in efforts to clean up their own environment, and protect people’s health.
This move leads some people to think a new era of more responsible recycling may begin to take place, and many recycling companies are already starting to recommend more recycling bins to help better sort materials to stream line the process.
How to Help
- Contact your local waste management facility and ask them what they take and what they don’t. Every time that we throw something in a recycle bin that our county doesn’t take, they have to spend time sorting it out, and that costs them money.
- Be mindful of the machines. Recycling centers use an intricate system of machines that have many moving parts that can easily get clogged. When we throw things out such as hoses or strings of Christmas lights, they get stuck in the machines and cause the whole system to shut down for hours.
- Don’t put your recyclables in plastic trash bags! They clog up the machines and many bags full of recyclable materials will just be thrown out.
- Clean up your act. Many processing facilities can’t afford to clean your trash, so if it is contaminated, they throw it out. Make sure all your recyclables are clean and you have removed all food waste.
- Buy products made out of recycled materials.
- Reduce Waste. Avoid excessive packaging and reuse and refill products as often as you can.
Don’t think refill is an option? Guess again! The technology exists that would allow you to refill your soaps, shampoos and detergents and could help ease the strain on recycling centers. However, retailers don’t think that you care.
Prove them wrong and demand refill options in stores! Sign the petition today to tell retailers that we care about our environment and #WeWantRefill!