With no notice and no “phase-in” the People’s Republic of China has turned the global recycling world upside down.
China is the single largest consumer of recyclable materials generated in North America, but the nation has suddenly given notice to the World Trade Organization (WTO) that
- mixed paper and mixed plastics will be banned from import into China later this year;
- the acceptable recyclable contamination level will be reduced from 5 percent to .3 percent – a virtually impossible number to achieve, rendering all recovered materials from U.S. single stream recycling programs ineligible for sale to companies in China; and
- existing recycling import licenses have been revoked as of September 1 – meaning the top four scrap paper import companies in China have suspended all imports.
Your recyclables from Las Cruces and all of Doña Ana County are managed by the South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA). The SCSWA contracts with Friedman Recycling – a regional recycling processor with recycling plants in Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso and Albuquerque. Friedman contracts with one of the largest U.S. exporters of recovered materials who contracts to sell recyclables to companies in China.
“This is a big shock; what it means is we may be limited in materials the SCSWA can accept for recycling moving forward,” SCSWA Executive Director Patrick Peck said. “What has been strong pricing in the United States will drop, due to more material moving into domestic markets.”
“This move by China is going to force recycling programs in the United States to seriously reassess what we are doing and re-gauge what recyclable products are acceptable,” adds Tarkeysha Burton, SCSWA recycling coordinator. “The net result is we will be forced to produce loads of higher quality recyclables for processing into new products.”
What you can do to keep our recycling infrastructure strong is:
- be sure you are recycling right – only recycle what is acceptable, and be sure it is clean and dry (not contaminated with food or filth);
- “close the loop” and be sure you are buying products made of recycled materials; that will develop domestic markets for recycled material instead of shipping those materials to China
“The action by China also shines a spotlight on Zero Waste efforts,” Burton said. “Now, more than ever before it becomes critical to re-evaluate how we view solid waste and make every effort possible to reduce what we are throwing away.”
Another immediate concern is the two hurricanes that greatly impacted recycling processors along the Gulf Coast.
The SCSWA believes communication is key and we will keep our residents informed.
By Suzanne Michaels