Across the U.S., local governments and recycling processors are scrambling to find new markets, resulting in some communities ending their recycling programs entirely.
According to Laurie Johnson, chief operating officer of 5280 Recycling Solutions, manufacturers are moving towards using plastics that have the most value in terms of being recycled.
“The ban is stimulating innovation in the U.S. and the creation of new market opportunities. It is also causing the market to scrutiny the amount of material generated as waste and ways in which we can begin to reduce that waste from plastic and move more toward reusable items.” Killoran said that post-consumer recycled plastic producers in the U.S. are working with municipalities to push for new market development programs.
“The U.S. recycling industry has to shift – we need to start taking care of our own recycling waste rather than having the Chinese do it for us,” Pearce said.
“This means ramping up conventional recycling as well as encouraging distributed recycling. These are valuable materials that we are literally wasting when we landfill or burn them instead of turning them back into products. This inefficiency makes us less competitive with other nations that have their recycling act together.” Recent technical developments in the areas of “Distributed recycling” and “Distributed manufacturing” provide enormous incentives for people to recycle their own waste to make high-value products for themselves.
“Everyday people will have a direct economic incentive to recycle rather than simply rely on good will to protect the environment.” On the Horizon With a large amount of recyclable materials staying stateside, the Chinese ban has caused a shift in value for recyclable commodities, which makes it hard for processors and haulers to continue spending the time, energy and resources to separate and recycle these materials.
“Because the driving force behind China’s recycling ban was the contamination level of the recyclables, researchers are focused on finding new ways to make single stream recycling more efficient and cost-effective. If the U.S. can find a way to create an extremely clean recyclables stream, China may even come back to the table to purchase it in the future.” According to Johnson, China and other countries will most likely continue to purchase processed plastic that is ready for manufacturing but doubtfully will ever take recycled material again that has not been processed.