A Recycler’s Lament

What do you mean we can’t recycle glass?! And you only want #I and #2 plastics?! And you don’t want the caps from my plastic bottles and cartons?!

KEC was in the forefront in l960s in leading the recycling movement in Ohio, and our efforts lead to what Ohio officials called Portage County’s model program. So, this is hitting us especially hard, as we see the market for recycling crashing. It feels like we’re sliding backward.

But we need to keep moving forward and focus on what we can do until the economics of recycling change. Read the following to learn the new rules and why they are changing, as well as a few of the new processes that people are developing that can help our recycling efforts.

So What CAN I Recycle?


Recycling’s Future?

China’s recent ban on the import of many categories of solid waste has sent tremors through the recycling community. China had become the world’s largest consumer of solid waste, increasing its imports from 4.5 million tons in 1995 to 45 million in 2016.

As China’s appetite for scrap increased, cities, as a matter of convenience, moved toward a one-bin recycling collection system . . . our single stream system and sorting equipment were designed for a Chinese market with no restrictions. But in 2013, China began imposing quality restrictions . . . high contamination rates required much more work to extract usable materials, and rising Chinese wages made separation even more expensive. After China imposed restrictions on waste, about 10% of U.S. shipments were rejected. Then in June 2017, China announced that by the end of the year, it would no longer accept imports from 24 categories of solid waste and imposed a maximum contamination rate of 0.3%. By the end of 2018, China will close the door to all post-consumer plastics. Any PET or HDPE won’t be allowed in unless it’s been processed into pellets or flakes.

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The illegal trash dumping in public or mixed in with recyclables is rising, despite warnings and increased enforcement efforts. Portage County now will be prosecuting people, rather than issue warnings! Placing trash inside a recycling bin will result in a third-degree misdemeanor littering charge, while dumping trash outside of a recycling bin will result in a felony, punishable by two and four years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
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Fortunately, sorting equipment (MRFs) have started integrating new technologies designed to auto-sort materials the older MRFs couldn’t handle…deli trays, yogurt cups, etc.

And new markets for solid waste recyclables are opening up. According to a new report, the global waste management market is expected to grow to $435 billion by 2023. The majority of the growth is expected to be witnessed in the emerging Asia-Pacific regions.

Time to Develop New Habits about Plastic Use

Plastics have become an integral part of our lives–from the toothpaste tube and toothbrush we use in the morning, to the containers we store our foods in, the toys our children play with, the cars we drive, the typewriter keys I’m using to type this article, and so much more. We can’t get rid of plastic completely in our modern world. Just think of modern hospitals without sterile tubes, bags and equipment. Plastic is so abundant because it is durable and easy to form into a myriad of objects. But remember that it’s a petroleum-based product that adds to our carbon footprint, exacerbates climate change, increases the mounds of garbage throughout the world and harms waterways.

In our last newsletter, Lorraine wrote about comments that Sherri A. Mason, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and chair of the Department of Geology and Environmental Science at the State University of New York at Fredonia, made when she spoke at the Cleveland City Club on August 14. Mason stressed that we have to be part of the solution to the excess of plastic in our lives by trying to cut down on the plastic we use in the first place–especially single-use plastics, plastic bags and straws, and take-out containers. She also urged everyone to pledge to reduce their use of plastics and to continue to recycle what we can.

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