The Recycling Crisis: Can We Point the Finger at China?


Waste 360 offers a different perspective on what has been named the “recycling crisis” in the industry. China’s new policies and import ban have shaken up the industry, causing tension and worry about the future of recycling. Waste and recycling associations have expressed their frustrations and hopes for a better outcome, but Waste 360 released an article that calls attention to the real issues.


A New Perspective

Waste 360 reporter Kate Bailey immediately shuts down any finger pointing at China and claims that they aren’t the problem though the industry has expressed otherwise. She states, “Plastics recycling has always been mediocre at best and cannot keep pace with the explosion of plastics on the market – and it never will.” The dramatic increase of plastics results from greater plastic use and only a small fraction of the material being recycled.


Reaction vs. Action

Bailey makes an interesting point in explaining the reactionary responses in the industry. Instead of reacting negatively to the policies put into place by China, she describes that we should be taking action to “develop stronger domestic markets for plastics recycling and more expansive education programs to reduce contamination.” Instead of looking at the cause of the problem, Berg Mill wants to be a part of the solution. Whether that means educating those that do not understand the calamity of the situation or investing in operations that focus on recycling various types of plastic, we will be there for our vendors.

We don’t think you can point the finger at one country. Rather, the plastic industry in general has become such a necessary evil in our everyday lives. It will take many years for consumers to make a shift, but we believe taking action now will provide positive change for the future.


The 50-30-20 Plan

The article also reveals Ellen MacArthur’s strategy to combat the crisis. The foundation proposed a 50-30-20 plan for plastics in their 2017 report, “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics & Catalysing Action” to advise that 50% of plastics be recycled, 30% undergo redesign, and 20% be replaced to improve quality. Bailey questions if the 50-30-20 plan is the answer to the industry’s problem, but there is no solid decision we can count on, as there must be a mutual agreement among several different groups: the industry, government, organizations, consumers, and more.


Plastics Aren’t the Enemy

It is apparent that Bailey is passionate about this topic but wants her article to leave an informed impression rather than be read as a diatribe against the industry and plastics. She explains that some sort of change needs to occur because plastic is still considered a valuable resource. We cannot continue to use the same amount of plastic and neglect the challenges they have created for us. Her issue leans more toward the environmental impacts and recycling process of the widely-used material. Though plastics are not the enemy, we do need to rethink our recycling efforts and education to curb the developing problems.

At Berg Mill, we continue to work hard on creating solutions to overcome fluctuating commodity markets, opening markets in other countries, forging strategic alliances, and improving domestic processing capabilities.

If you handle large amounts of recycled waste and are looking for solutions to offload idle scrap, please contact our industry veterans at Berg Mill Supply.