China Tightens Recycling Import Rules

We have all seen the pictures of cities in China with air pollution so bad citizens have resorted to wearing masks. To help improve the environment, the Chinese government recently implemented new rules severely restricting the import of recycled plastics and recycled paper.

With the paper mill industry declining in the US, we have been shipping much of our baled paper to China, where high-quality recycling is made into products such as cereal boxes and shipping cartons.

Historically, China has accepted 4 to 5 percent impurities in bales of recycled materials. Now, China will only accept bales containing less than 1 percent of those impurities. It is a big change that will be challenging to meet.

It’s a small world and all things environmental are interrelated. If we can help China make progress in protecting the environment, we all win.

The new restrictions also impact our cities’ recycling programs financially. When we don’t meet China’s quality standard for recycling bales, we must ship them to other paper mill locations, such as in Vietnam. That means higher transportation costs, which ultimately affect residents and businesses.

We have an advantage because many of our customers already have an interest in helping to better sort their materials, and are actively participating in recycling and composting collection programs. When we separate banana peels, coffee grounds, and food-soiled paper, they do not touch recycled paper. This keeps recycled paper dry and clean and helps us comply with China’s new quality requirements.

With your help, Recology is taking the challenge to reduce impurities in our recycling bales head on. We’re improving our operational functions, and will continue to provide updates and raise public awareness on this issue through articles in our customer newsletters, website, and social media platforms.

The best thing you can do is properly sort your materials, making sure that wet, non-recyclable items are composted or tossed in the garbage. Give your recyclables a quick rinse, take your plastic bags back to stores or reuse them, and compost your food scraps (backyard composting is an option if this service is unavailable in your community). Please see your cities recycling guidelines and sorting guides for a list of what goes where (confusingly, accepted items vary by city due to different processing capabilities).

Please keep recycling and composting, with even more care.