With probes and clipboards, Chinese inspectors tour Bay Area recycling centers at least once a month, testing our trash to see if it meets their new high standards.
Until recently, almost all of our vast piles of plastic and paper refuse were sold and shipped overseas, promising a new life for much of what we so blithely tossed away.
Now much is rejected as wet, dirty or worthless – a reversal that has turned our once-reliable recycling world upside down, as prices plummet and the cost of cleanup soars.
As a result, California’s once-proud recycling reputation is in a tailspin. About 35 million tons of garbage were dumped into landfills in 2016, up from 29.3 million tons in 2012. Recycling rates have fallen from 50 percent to 44 percent. The state’s goal of reaching a 75 percent recycling rate by next year is slipping further away.
With a shrunken market for our waste, fewer materials can be reclaimed – forcing us to re-think familiar conveniences. Certain plastics and papers are the biggest problem, especially if soiled by food or fluids. Careless customers may discover a note on their bin or no pickup at all.
That stuff inside your blue bin used to be worth about 65 cents. Now it costs 47 cents to haul it away and find someone who wants it.
“We’ve been lulled into thinking that we don’t have to pay for what’s put in the recycling cart,” said Mark Bowers of Sunnyvale’s Materials Recovery and Transfer Station, which sorts and processes much of the Peninsula’s solid waste. “But we do.”
Our largest customer, China, was overwhelmed by the West’s waste. So it cut off imports of all but our cleanest and highest-grade materials — allowing only certain plastics, corrugated cardboard, newsprint and a few other categories. It has imposed a 99.5 percent purity standard …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Business