Penn Waste’s Mission

At Penn Waste, our goal is to partner with our customers to create a green community together. We do this by providing safe, dependable and courteous waste and recycling collection services. Our innovative recycling facility is also an important resource in our region for recovering as much material as possible and diverting it from disposal sites. As a locally owned and operated company, we are also committed to giving back to the communities we service.

Why is there a recycling crisis?

Back in the fall, the largest buyer of recyclable material in the world, China, set unachievable contamination limits on the recyclable material they receive resulting in the recycling markets crashing. China has stated their goal is to stop relying on imported recyclable material and improve their own domestic recovery capabilities. The recycling paper market has collapsed since China halted most importing of paper due to pollution issues. Waste companies are scrambling to find new markets AND looking for ways to reduce contaminants. Most US recycling facilities aren’t capable of reducing food waste and other contaminants by enough to comply with China’s new contamination limits. Recycling companies are being forced to invest in additional equipment and labor in an effort to comply with the unrealistic contamination limits.

China’s recent 25% tariff on US Scrap aluminum has pushed down prices effectively wiping out the profit margin for processers and brokers who sell scrap aluminum to China. China is also no longer accepting most plastics.


Due to the unpredictable recycling markets, new tariffs on aluminum, and other rising business costs such as rising fuel prices, a severe skilled labor crisis, growing government regulations, escalating health liability and cyber insurance costs, it is necessary for Penn Waste to impose a sustainability fee on our customers so we can maintain the same level of service we’ve provided in the past to our community. 

Recycling is required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania per Act 101 and our customers have been vocal about wanting it as a service; however, there is a cost to recycle. The recycling industry as a whole is re-evaluating what the cost of recycling is and what we charge for this service.  Recycling companies are moving away from a commodity model of pricing to a fee for service pricing model. The collapse of the recycling markets along with other rising business expenses has made it impossible to sustain a profit which is why this fee is necessary.

Penn Waste values the relationships we’ve built with our customers which is why we are being transparent about the need for a sustainability fee. If you have additional questions, please call into our customer service department at 717-767-4456.

Chinese Restrictions on Imports Creating Recycling Industry Crisis

The United States generates more recyclable material than any other country in the world and China is the world’s largest buyer of recyclable material. The Chinese government recently imposed new rules severely restricting the levels of contamination allowed in the recyclable material they accept. These changes have had catastrophic consequences for the US recycling industry.

What is contamination?

Contamination is any non-recyclable item that gets mixed into a bale of recyclable material. When bales of recyclables arrive in China, they are cut open and sorted through. Items such as plastic bags, clothing, medical waste, and Christmas lights and any other non-recyclable items are considered “contamination.”

Previously, bales were allowed to have around 5% contamination in them which equates to 92lbs of contamination in a 1,850lb paper bale . At the beginning of 2018, China imposed a 0.5% contamination limit on imported recyclables from any country which equates to only 9lbs of contamination in a 1,850lb bale of paper. This is an impossible level of contamination for recycling companies to achieve.

The Good News

Many of our customers are enthusiastic recyclers and want to make sure they’re doing it properly. Recycling continues to be the future of the waste industry but it will come at a cost if there is no market for recyclable material. We need our customers’ help in making sure they’re not throwing trash in with their recycling so that we can ultimately try to meet China’s new contamination limits.

How Can You Help?

We encourage all of our customers to do the following:

  1. Educate yourself on what materials Penn Waste is able to recycle. These items can be found at
  2. Do not throw something is the recycle bin unless you know for sure it is recyclable. When in Doubt – Throw it Out!
  3. Make sure you properly sort your materials, making sure that wet, non-recyclable items are tossed in the garbage.