In preparation for Earth Day on Sunday, April 22nd, we feel it’s important to update our customers on some catastrophic changes that are severely impacting the recycling industry.
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 on the US recycling industry.
What is contamination?
Contamination is any non-recyclable item (aka trash) 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, Christmas lights and any other non-recyclable items are considered “contamination.”
Previously, bales were allowed to have around 5% contamination in them, or 92 lbs of trash, in a 1,850 lb bale of recycled paper. Beginning in 2018, China changed those restrictions to a 0.5% contamination rate, or 9lbs of trash in a 1,850 lb bale of recycled paper. This is an unrealistic number that recycling companies cannot meet.
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 try to meet China’s new contamination limits.
How Can You Help?
We encourage all of our customers to do the following:
Educate yourself on what items Penn Waste is able to recycle. Here’s a link to an English / Spanish version of WHAT IS and IS NOT recyclable – http://www.pennwaste.com/wp-content/uploads/2018-Penn-Waste-Recycling-Guidelines.pdf
Do not throw items in the recycle bin unless you know for sure it is recyclable. When In Doubt, Throw It Out!
Make sure you properly sort your materials, making sure that wet, non-recyclable items are tossed in the garbage.
Stay tuned for more updates about the recycling crisis over the next few weeks.