Though many might believe that the new recycling regulations in China will have little impact on things here in New England, local communities across the country are already starting to feel the sting. Previously, China accepted the majority of America’s recyclables, regularly with 1-3% contamination, but in an attempt to improve conditions in China, they are now only accepting recyclables with 0.5% contamination, and at much smaller volumes than previous years. Because U.S.-based recycling companies regularly collect and process recyclables before selling them internationally as commodities, these companies have had to crack down on the amount of contamination accepted, the amount of recyclables, and even the types of recycled materials.
Here are how three local communities are dealing with the ramifications of China’s changes.
With the new regulations, local recycling companies have become significantly stricter with the kind of recyclables they’re accepting from communities, and putting penalties on those who fail to eliminate contamination from their recyclables. In Jay, Maine, for instance, the recycling company they use is instituting a fine for contaminated recyclables: $40 per ton for more than 5% contamination, and $70 per ton for 10% or more contamination. While this might not seem like a lot, it’s a significant penalty given that the town is currently only paying $15 per ton for recycling. The town of Jay is hoping that an app to help residents double check their recyclables will help them avoid fines. Read more about what’s going on in Jay in Ben Hanstein’s article in the Daily Bulldog.
Similarly, five communities in Massachusetts must agree to rising costs for their recycling pickup by July 1, or their recycling pickup company ABC Disposal will stop service. Because of the massive decrease in recyclables that China is accepting, companies like ABC Disposal have to raise their prices to maintain revenue. And with the amount of contamination that regularly shows up in recyclables, fines and cancelled contracts are becoming more commonplace. Some towns are looking into the feasibility of the higher rates, while others are trying to negotiate, and more are looking at alternatives. Learn more about what these Massachusetts towns are facing in Jennette Barnes’ article in Wicked Local Marion.
One of the major contaminators that China is insisting being removed is plastic, specifically plastic bags. Residents of Bedford, MA, will no longer have their recycling picked up if they place anything in a plastic bag. Previously, Republic Service, who handles Bedford’s recycling, would pick up the recycling in bags and then send it on to a Waste Management facility. but because of the changes in China, that bag is now directly thrown into the trash as China will no longer accept it. Read more about what contaminations Bedford residents have to be wary of in Jesse Collings’ article in Wicked Local Bedford.