Mid-South feels impacts of Chinese recycling laws

Mid-South cities are feeling the costs of recycling.
Mid-South cities are feeling the costs of recycling.(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Sep. 10, 2018 at 6:15 PM CDT
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COLLIERVILLE, TN (WMC) - Local recycling programs are starting to feel the impact of China’s new waste import restriction policy.

Recyclables are the largest export generated in the United States. The restrictions are causing recycling costs to rise, including in Collierville, which is evaluating its recycling program.

"It's affecting us and it's affecting our costs and it's just something that we are going to be proactively monitoring," Collierville Public Information Officer Mark Heuberger said.

For more than 25 years, waste companies in America and other countries exported their recyclables to China.

A law passed in China in 2017, created extremely high standards for imported plastic waste, essentially cutting off plastic imports.

Recycling programs all over the country are feeling the effects.

"There was time just a few years ago that we were actually being paid to dispose of recyclables $25 per ton," Heuberger said. "And now we are paying about $80 per ton to dispose of our recyclables."

Memphis is feeling the effects too. Republic Services, which operates a recycling facility in Memphis, confirmed they are no longer accepting commercial recyclables from Memphis businesses such as Memphis International Airport, St. Jude, and a list of others.

Republic Services said China's new recycling law is creating a crisis point all over the country and is threatening recycling programs.

"Right now we pick up recyclables once a week, in the future we may look at doing that once a month or something like that to offset the cost," Heuberger said.

Collierville officials said they may also turn to several recycling facilities rather than recycling pickup if things continue to get worse.

Their absolute last resort is raising taxes.

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