In the course of one year, Los Angeles-area exporters cut their scrap polyethylene shipments to China by 99 percent, leaving thousands of tons of plastic looking for a home. Other countries were only able to absorb about one-fifth of the volume.
Many recycling experts see China’s imports curtailment as an opportunity to rebuild domestic recycling infrastructure. A recent workshop in Portland, Ore. fostered conversations on how to begin doing that in the Pacific Northwest, a region that has long been fairly export dependant.
After wounding U.S. exports of scrap paper and plastics, China is now preparing to cripple recovered aluminum shipments. This time, the justification isn’t environmental protection but tariff retaliation.