As we near the end of the calendar year, it’s sometimes tradition for a publication to take stock of major events, issues, or news that have transpired over the past 12 months and reminisce with the “Year in Review.” I’ve been contemplating it for this space, at this time. But I’ve come up with a few reasons not to.
First, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, so it might be too early. Second, I’ve never really been a fan of the yearly recap, even less now that I’m trying to avoid writing one. And foremost, one single event has captured my attention that is so impactful and so imminent to the solid waste industries, that I feel we have to examine what is ahead.
On July 18, 2017, China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of their intention to ban certain waste imports at the end of the year. The effects will be felt on a national level, all the way to the local level.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is setting the example for a measured and thoughtful call to action. Recently, it issued an update to state officials providing states with background on the China waste ban, details on how it could impact state and local recycling programs, and suggestions they should consider for responding to the increasing market uncertainty.
SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman says, “I feel very strongly that state agencies and others need to be made aware of the current status of the China recycling situation. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some significant volatility in pricing, discussions at a WTO committee meeting, and conversations between U.S. and Chinese officials. It is important that those responsible for regulating recycling operations at the state level are aware of the current disruption in the global recycling market and remind local governments and industry partners to produce high-quality material.”
SWANA’s intentions in providing education on the potential impacts of the Chinese waste ban are to help coordinate and streamline efforts made by state agencies in responding to changes in accepted materials, adjustments in export quality, and overall volatility in the global marketplace.
Looking ahead, SWANA wants state agencies to be prepared for increased market volatility and suggests the following steps:
- Communicate with local governments, industry partners, generators, and other interested parties about the current disruption in recycling markets.
- Educate all stakeholders about the importance of generating high-quality material. China’s ongoing efforts to limit the amount of contamination in material imports—dating back to the 2013 “Green Fence”—highlight the need for recyclers to produce high-quality material.
- Renew efforts to encourage waste reduction and the development of alternative domestic markets for recyclable materials. Both have the potential to reduce reliance on Chinese markets.
- Review current and contemplated recycling goals and regulations in light of current market conditions.
SWANA has committed to continue monitoring what transpires overseas and domestically, and will provide more information when situations call for it.
It’s not as sentimental as a “Year in Review,” but it definitely helps.