China Now Turning Away US ... Trash

This is really bad news for recycling efforts in US cities

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted May 10, 2013 11:37 AM CDT

(Newser) – If your local recycler starts turning away your cans and bottles in the near future, blame China. Beijing has stopped accepting certain shipments of recycled plastic from the US, reports Quartz. (It reportedly will no longer welcome unwashed plastics and improperly sorted shipments; other reports say items like coffee cup lids and PVC pipes are on the no-no list.) This, it turns out, is a huge deal because trash has for years been one of the top American exports to China, explains the Washington Post. If China won't buy it anymore, US cities and recycling companies will be scrambling for alternatives.

In fact, that's already happening, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting, which talks to one company that has 50 trucks' worth of plastic sitting around thanks to canceled China orders. One sliver of hope is that China genuinely needs this stuff for its manufacturing industry, so it's possible that business interests will pressure the government into relaxing the new "Operation Green Fence" initiative. Failing that, the US will either need to start recycling more of its own trash or find new buyers. Might we suggest Oslo?

In this 2009 photo, a man prepares to dump plastic bottles at a recycling center in Beijing.
In this 2009 photo, a man prepares to dump plastic bottles at a recycling center in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
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