California Feeling Unsteady with China’s Role in Recycling

With China’s decision to halt recyclable imports, California is starting to feel the sting in recycling. There are various changes that need to be made, including funding decisions. The impact of China’s decisions is creating restrictions on California in regard to export tonnages. Resource Recycling reports, “In 2016, California’s exports of recyclables amounted to 15 million tons.” California has every right to feel wary about where their billions of dollars of waste will go, especially given that most changes are going to tug at budgets.


Export Materials and Costs

Various types of materials are exported to China, including plastics and mixed paper. Though data indicates that mixed paper exports decreased significantly, plastics decreased marginally. China’s restrictions are creating strains on the recycling industry and CalRecycle is responding by trying to strengthen the system. The department is concerned about investments and needed funds to implement changes California would need to make to the system. The recycling and recovery agency predicts it will cost around $3 billion in investments to cater to the new goals set as a result of China’s decisions.


Are there other options?

There are always doors opening with the consistent emergence of new technologies. Some experts suggest gasification and pyrolysis, but they are also discouraged by the government. If you consider the process, then you can understand how pyrolysis does not apply a recycling approach. It acts as a disposal technique to rid the recyclable waste China refuses to accept. Other environmentalists propose that it could create a new market to generate fuel. The materials would be recycled if they were repurposed for other efforts.

The perspective on these options still seems rather vague. Many are struggling to find alternative solutions with the recurring recycling limitations and scrap management changes. There is concern for developing the market and capacity to achieve California’s recycling goals.


What our COO had to say

As a Material Recovery Facility, Berg Mill is also impacted by China’s import ban. Our COO, William Winchester, was featured in the Resource Recycling Update article to shed light on the current situation. He recounts, “In order to meet the diversion requirements here and the quality standards overseas, the curbside processors have to invest more capital and more labor right now, and they’re going to get less revenue even after they do that.”

Money and time continue to be an issue when assessing and developing solutions for the import crisis. William also mentioned that China wants us to be “a provider of very clean, raw materials.” This creates various challenges because an educational and outreach program would need to be developed in order to clean up the curbside stream. Residential customers would also be forced to pay higher fees to produce the desired environmental effects China is seeking.

Berg Mill continues to work hard on creating solutions to overcome fluctuating commodity markets and keeping you updated on the relevant news that affects them. Contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply if you are looking for solutions to offload idle scrap or large amounts of recycled waste.