Recycling Markets FAQ
Q: What is the Chinese National Sword? What is happening to the recycling markets?
A: As of January 1, 2018, China is no longer allowing the importation of post-consumer plastics and unsorted paper, in response to the poor quality of material shipped from the U.S. and Europe; pollution caused by poor recycling practices and small-scale operations; and the need for China to develop its own domestic recovery system for recyclable materials.
Q: Why was my recycling being sent to China?
A: There are not enough domestic markets for the materials in the US. Most of the domestic markets in the US are on the east coast and they do not have the capacity to process all of the material in the US.
Q: How does this affect Oregon in the short term?
A: The processors in Oregon where Pride Disposal (and other haulers) take their recyclables are the ones who sort the recyclables and then ship them to recycling markets. Those facilities are trying to improve the quality of the material by slowing down their sorting lines so they can remove more contaminants and do a cleaner sort. This means material is backing up, and because there is a lot of recycling done in Oregon, the incoming material to these facilities is not slowing down.
Processors may not be able to find alternative markets for some of the mixed paper or plastics being collected for recycling. In such circumstances, DEQ is allowing (in some cases) for material collected for recycling to be sent to a landfill on a temporary basis. This is an unfortunate but needed option at this time on the issue. This will be the first time in Oregon’s decades of strong recycling programs where this may occur on a large scale.
Q: How does this affect Oregon in the long term?
A: At this point it’s hard to predict. DEQ, local governments, and the hauling industry are working together to come up with solutions. Some jurisdictions in Oregon have made changes to what is allowed in the curbside recycling, or in a couple of cases: they have stopped curbside recycling programs altogether.
It is possible that in the future there may be a change in what can be recycled curbside, but no changes are being made to curbside programs in the Portland Metro area at this time. It is extremely important to make sure you are only including acceptable materials in your recycling. Find a comprehensive list here.
Q: Will this impact my garbage rates?
A: The price of processing these materials (slower and sometimes multiple times) has gone up for the processors and therefore for us (the hauler) and that may have an impact on your rates. In some cases, it is more costly to drop off recycling for processing than it is to dispose of material that is landfill bound. There are still many environmental benefits to recycling, but it has become more expensive to do it.
Q: What should I do as a customer who is recycling?
A: Continue to recycle but make sure you are only putting the correct items in your recycling. If you’re in doubt, throw it out. Putting something in your recycling because you hope or wish it was recyclable is a big part of the problem and leads to more contamination. You can also make efforts to reduce your waste and limit purchasing materials that cannot be recycled or reused; bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, don’t buy food contained in clamshell plastics, etc.