Recycling Is Broken

Most of us think of recycling as a service our city provides, but in reality it’s a business.

The effect on the U.S. recycling business was, as one industry expert put it, like an “Earthquake.” Mixed paper and plastic exports to China plunged more than 90 percent between January 2017 and January 2018, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Anne Germain, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the National Waste and Recycling Association, an industry trade group, told me that mixed paper went from selling for about $100 a ton to a high of about $3 a ton.

Ultimately, the effects have rippled back to the cities which, faced with soaring costs to keep recycling afloat, have been forced to make hard choices, whether that’s sending recyclables to a landfill or paring down the list of items they’ll accept.

McGrath said if Philly can convince residents to stop tossing plastic bags in the recycling bin, that alone would be a big deal.

Germain said public education was something the recycling industry as a whole had let slide over the years.

While a better educated public would translate to a cleaner, more profitable recycling stream, there’s also a desperate need for new manufacturers to fill the China-shaped void.

This article was summarized automatically with AI / Article-Σ ™/ BuildR BOT™.

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