China’s Recyclables Ban

About half of the exported recyclables from the U.S. end up in China, historically fueling that country’s booming economy. A cooling of China’s manufacturing, coupled with the increased global scrutiny of environmental practices, led to a ban on several grades of “foreign waste”. These recyclables are piling up, and even being landfilled in some cases.

Yet it would be a mistake to paint a scenario of doom and gloom. Yes, the China ban has caused issues, but when a market shifts significantly in this manner opportunities are created as well. The need to reduce waste increases interest in cradle-to-cradle and design-for-recycle techniques. Adding capacity for U.S. based processing of recyclables is another area that could see expansion. From increased sorting of recyclables to changes in design and manufacturing of products, China’s ban is having a lasting effect on the industry.

A recent article in American Recycler provides a brief overview of the current state of the ban.