Single stream recyclables from SSRC towns are sorted and baled at the Waste Management Avon plant. Here are excerpts from a bulletin sent out in May 2018 that summarizes the situation:
In recent years, almost 30% of all recyclables from across the globe were shipped to China. On January 1, all mixed paper and mixed plastics were banned as an import into China. On March 1, China began enforcing a new 0.5% contamination limit on imported recyclables.
China’s new policies (are) in response to their aggressive new environmental goals, which include creating their own recycling collection programs. China plans to eliminate imports of all post-consumer recyclables by 2021.
On May 3, the Chinese Government suspended inspections/certificates for all recyclables from the U.S. through June 4, 2018. In other words, regardless of the material bans and the 0.5% contamination limit, no recyclables will ship from the U.S. to China for at least the next month. It is apparent that China will not be easing up on their import restrictions soon.
Impact of this Latest Announcement
The suspension of U.S. imports into China adds additional pressure on global markets, which ultimately impacts recycling programs in communities across the U.S. Some paper will likely be left without a market.
We have seen a 50% reduction in commodity values in the past several months, while processing costs have increased. Every community and every recycler is impacted.
Keeping the Focus on Quality
Alternative markets – domestic and export - require high quality recyclable materials with little to no contamination. Waste Management (WM) is focused on reducing contamination to help move materials to end markets. Given continued market volatility, we must all work together on solutions. We all have a role - and a responsibility - to make recycling successful.
THE BATTLE TO REDUCE RECYCLING CONTAMINATION
The sustainability of all recycling programs is dependent upon collecting high quality recyclable materials free of unacceptable materials. From an environmental, economic and safety perspective, addressing the quality of recycling is imperative. Here is what WM is doing, and how you can help:
Mixed Residential Curbside Recycling Myth Busters View the entire document by clicking here.
Myth: The recycling arrows on a container means it is recyclable in my town's program
Answer: Only in some cases. (page 2)
Myth: It doesn't mattter if something belongs in the recycling cart, the hauler will sort everything anyway
Answer: False. (page 2)
Myth: All plastics can be recycled with my bottles and cans
Q: What kinds of plastic are recyclable in my town's recycling program? A: Most clean rigid containers. (page 4) Those numbered 1,2 and 5 are the most desirable.
Q: Are cartons, juice boxes, pizza boxes, and paper beverage cups recyclable in my town's program? A: It depends (page 5) In sum, only gable top and aseptic cartons, and clean pizza boxes can be recycled. No frozen food containers, paper cups, paper ream wrap or beer/soda packaging- a plastic layer is either embedded or sprayed on, and cannot be separated.
Q: What about paper towels, napkins, tissues, shredded paper, and paper plates? A: No (page 6)
Q: Does my town include glass in it's recycling program? A: All SSRC town programs accept glass bottles and jars. No drinking glasses, window panes, light bulbs, or ceramics - these can ruin a whole batch of new bottles at the other end.
Q: Aerosol cans? A: Only if completely empty (page 7)
Q: How clean is "clean"? A. Quick rinse for most liquids, spatula empty for thick liquids. (page 8). Hint: Shake some water in your almost empty bottle of shampoo or laundry detergent and get one or two more washes.
Q: What about hoses, tanks, shower curtains, candy wrappers, swing sets, skis, bowling balls, diapers, silverware, pots and pans, engine blocks, and holey socks? A: Don't do it! Only paper, cardboard, bottles and rigid containers, can be recycled with the paper, cardboard, bottles and rigid containers. (page 8) See the SSRC Recycling A-Z page to learn what to do with many other reusable and recyclable materials.
Discover the proper way to recycle plastic bags and other tanglers (holiday lights, clothing, etc.) This does not just go for Chicago, but for everywhere.
Take a video tour of the Waste Management recycling plant in Avon, where many of our towns’ recyclables go. Rosemary Nolan narrates.