With China saying no to plastic waste, the world needs a new plan

U.S. & World

(NBC) – America’s recycling system is facing an uphill battle.

Pete Keller, Vice-President of Republic Services Inc., says, “To put it simply it’s broken.” 

Piles of glass, paper and plastic hitting a bottleneck after collection. More than 800 tons of glass sits in a recycling plant in Charlotte, North Carolina with nowhere to go.

Republic Services, one of America’s largest recyclers, is feeling the pain from waste import restrictions imposed by China. Losing a buyer that many companies and U.S. governments have grown to rely for recycling needs.

Keller says, “There have been instances had to move that material to landfills just to free up space at our facilities.”

Recyclers are also facing increased operating costs, in part, because of what the industry calls “Wishful recycling.” Things like plastic grocery bags just shouldn’t go in a recycling bin, neither should pillows or garden hoses. Actually, it can mess up the equipment. The best thing to do? When in doubt, throw it out.

But even with perfect adherence to recycling guidelines, the supply is greater than the demand.

The Executive Director and CEO of Solid Waste Association of North America, David Biderman, says, “If all of the boxes that Amazon delivers to hundreds of millions of Americans were made out of recycled paper, that would have a dramatic effect on the economics of recycling.”

Without a market for the recycled materials, the cost might be “dumped” on the consumer.

“The average homeowner can expect to pay more for recycling services in the future,” says Keller.

Covering collection and processing costs without an answer to where it all will end up.

Recyclers say you can help keep items out of landfills by only putting designated recyclables in your bin, and making sure everything is clean and dry. One half-full bottle of spaghetti sauce can contaminate an entire unit of materials, making them worthless.

Also, recyclables cannot be processed if they are in a bag., so save those garbage bags for garbage only.
 

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