Change in China Recycling Policy Driving Costs in the MidstatePosted
Written by Rachel McDevitt | WITF News, Jun 14, 2018 6:51 PM
(Harrisburg) — The cost of recycling will likely go up for many midstate communities over the next few years.
A change of standards in China is causing recycling processors in the U.S. to recalculate.
China is the largest importer of U.S. recyclables. At the beginning of this year, the country enacted a ban on some materials and strictly limited the contamination allowed in shipments of others, from five percent to half a percent.
That’s driving up costs for processors like Penn Waste, which collects recycling from 70 municipalities in the region.
Marketing director Amanda Davidson said 35 percent of the material they collect as recycling is garbage that then needs to be disposed of.
A big problem is “hopeful recycling,” which means people will put things in recycling bins they want to be recyclable but should really be thrown out.
“So diapers, car parts, hoses, electrical cords, medical waste, clothing, mattresses. We’ve gotten deer carcasses. Deer season is a horrible time of year at our recycle center,” Davidson said as she gave examples.
She said now there’s added pressure to get these sometimes-hazardous items out of the waste stream.
Penn Waste has been investing in labor and equipment to reduce contamination.
The company is now charging a sustainability fee for commercial and private subscription customers.
Davidson said they are approaching municipalities now to see if they can renegotiate waste contracts to add a sustainability fee.
“Even if we don’t get a small increase now, everyone’s going to see a large increase later to make up for the impact that the recycling crisis is having,” she said.
The company plans to release new guidelines next month that should make it easier for customers to understand what’s recyclable and what’s not.