China bans Plastic waste imports
What does this mean for Portland recycling?
excerpt from NPR
Like many Portland residents, Satish and Arlene Palshikar are serious recyclers. Their house is coated with recycled bluish-white paint. They recycle their rainwater, compost their food waste and carefully separate the paper and plastic they toss out. But recently, after loading up their Prius and driving to a sorting facility, they got a shock.
"The fellow said we don't take plastic anymore," Satish says. "It should go in the trash."
The facility had been shipping its plastic to China, but suddenly that was no longer possible.
"It just keeps coming and coming and coming," says Rogue employee Laura Leebrick. In the warehouse, she is dwarfed by stacks of orphaned recycling bales. Outside, employee parking spaces have been taken over by compressed cubes of sour cream containers, broken wine bottles and junk mail.
And what are recyclables with nowhere to go?
"Right now, by definition, that material out there is garbage," she says. "It has no value. There is no demand for it in the marketplace. It's garbage."
For now, Rogue Waste says it has no choice but to take all of this recycling to the local landfill. More than a dozen Oregon companies have asked regulators whether they can send recyclable materials to landfills, and that number may grow if they can't find someplace else that wants them.
At Pioneer Recycling in Portland, owner Steve Frank is shopping for new buyers outside of China.
"I've personally moved material to different countries in an effort to keep material flowing," he says.
Without Chinese buyers, Frank says U.S. recycling companies are playing a game of musical chairs, and the music stops when China's ban on waste imports fully kicks in.
"The rest of the world cannot make up that gap," he said. "That's where we have what I call a bit of chaos going on."