The mid-July headline from Reuters read, “China says it won’t take any more foreign garbage.” China informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would not be accepting any more imported waste such as plastics, paper, slag from steelmaking, ash, etc. In its filing with the WTO, China said, “We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously.”FREE Infographic on Landfill Management: 6 Tips for Excellence in Landfill Operations. Covering publicity, education, engineering, long-term planning, and landfill gas waste-to-energy. Download it now!
Last week, SWANA filed a written response with the WTO saying in part, “It is simply not possible to modify quickly or halt the thousands of recycling programs in the United States that will be impacted by the Notification. Successful recycling programs require consistency in service, and once started, should not be ‘turned off.’ New York City’s experience proves this point: in 2003, the glass and plastics portion of its municipal recycling program was discontinued as part of citywide budget cuts, and the diversion rate plunged from 20% to 11%. Although those portions of its recycling program were restored a few years later, the diversion rate has still not recovered to the level achieved prior to 2003.
Local recycling programs, whether at curbside or via a drop-off center, and whether dual stream or single stream, are a core part of solid waste systems developed over the past three decades, and are embedded in the fabric of thousands of communities throughout the United States. Recycling programs throughout North America have suffered from China’s Operation Green Fence in 2013 and from its recent National Sword initiative. SWANA is concerned that many recycling programs in the United States and Canada would be unable to recover from China’s proposed ban on importing recyclables and the disruption it would cause by closing a significant outlet for paper and plastics.
It is not feasible to expect new domestic recycling facilities to be permitted, constructed, and start operations in the United States or Canada, or for existing facilities to be significantly expanded, in the few months before the Notification takes effect. If implementation of the Notification blocks the export of recyclables to China, much of these materials, including waste paper, plastic, and other useful resources, will likely be disposed in landfills and waste-to-energy facilities in North America, and indeed, around the globe. This will greatly diminish public confidence, participation and support of local recycling programs, and undermine successful environmental programs in the United States, Canada, and throughout the world.”
So what do we do?
On September 19th, MSW Management and Forester University will be hosting a free webinar presented in a panel discussion format. The overall tenor of the discussion will be collegial rather than adversarial, exploring the likely impacts of the overseas waste ban, potential opportunities, and how we can turn the overseas waste ban into a productive situation for all parties impacted.
We have a distinguished panel that includes David Biderman, president and CEO of SWANA, Robin Wiener, president of the International Scrap and Recycling Institute, Zoe Heller, policy director at Cal Recycle, Constance Hornig, MSW contracts attorney, and Chaz Miller, policy director at the National Waste & Recycling Organization.
Click here to register for the free webinar. Let’s find the solutions together.