China is unprepared to effectively roll out and enforce its planned Jan. 1 ban on imports of certain recyclables, according to recycling leaders who recently traveled to the country in search of answers.
China officially announced last month that most inbound loads of recyclables will be allowed no more than 0.5 percent contamination, which is slightly less stringent than initial proposals. But industry executives recently noted that when it comes to recovered paper, that’s largely a moot point.
Republic Services reported higher recycling revenues during the third quarter, and it expects its acquisition of MRF operator ReCommunity will boost tonnages it processes by about half going forward.
More than three months after China announced it will restrict recyclables imports, key details on logistics and timing of the new regulations remain unknown. But industry associations are piecing together some more concrete facts.
In a recent interview, SWANA leader David Biderman said communities don’t want to undo decades of outreach work and tell residents to stop putting certain items in the bin, even if China’s scrap policies are shaking up market realities.
A plastic packaging industry publication is criticizing the recycling industry’s shock and concern over China’s import restrictions, which the writer says are part of a measured and well-publicized effort that’s been in effect for more than a decade.
MRF operators are increasing their labor forces and installing additional sorting equipment in response to Chinese restrictions on scrap imports. At the same time, a standard ton of single-stream recyclables in the U.S. has dropped in value by roughly 50 percent in recent weeks.
The upstream impacts of China’s import restrictions have been increasingly covered in national and local press, raising the level of public consciousness about where recyclables ultimately end up and how that could all change.