The First Domino Falls


Here’s something you never think about that I’m going to make you think about. Falling dominoes. I’m talking about those gigantic kinetic displays that show thousands of dominoes standing side by side in a row, in a spiral, in a circle, in a pattern, and even in multi-level structures. You start by pushing one over and then watch as that singular shove results in the leveling of most, if not all, of the thousands of other dominoes toppling over. Some fall where they were expected to fall. Others fall in haphazard fashion. A few don’t fall at all.

Watching the dominoes fall can be mesmerizing. While we take a weird kind of pleasure in watching them fall, I don’t know anyone (other than the individuals who actually do it) who finds it fun to be a spectator as the dominoes are stood up to create these intricate displays. It can take hours. Even the videos of the setup are shown in quick, time-lapse fashion. But we know that it’s something that can take hours to do and only seconds to bring down.

This recycling system we’ve set up in North America over the past decades is being threatened by one single action in China.

I’ve told you in this blog recently about SWANA’s (the Solid Waste Association of North America) reaction to China notifying the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it will no longer be importing various solid waste and recycling.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) released a letter sent to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection commenting on draft changes to its technical standards for imported scrap. ISRI President Robin Wiener wrote, “The application of this standard will effectively result in a ban on the importation of all these commodities. It is simply not possible to achieve such a control level, nor is it possible to even measure it with such accuracy.”

She also wrote, “With $5.2 billion in scrap commodities exported from the United States to China last year alone, the trade in specification-grade commodities between the United States and China is of critical importance to the health and success of both the US-based recycling industry and China’s manufacturing sector. It is for this reason that ISRI is pleased to be able to have the opportunity to comment on the changes being considered to the GB Standards governing the import of scrap.”

Not long after ISRI’s letter was sent, the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) sent a letter of its own to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China reacting to China’s import ban on solid waste taking effect at the end of the year.

NWRA president and CEO Darrell Smith says, “This ban will significantly impact the recycling industry in the United States as well as on the Chinese manufacturing that relies on these recycled materials. We respectfully request that the Chinese government reconsider this ban. Further, we support high-quality standards for recyclable materials and support policies to achieve them. Ultimately, we believe that by using high-quality standards, China ensures that its manufacturing sector has the raw materials needed to continue to produce goods while ensuring that the recycling industry remains viable into the future.”

Just this week, MSW Management magazine and Forester University hosted a panel discussion webinar with ISRI president Robin Wiener, SWANA president & CEO David Biderman, NWRA director policy/advocacy Chaz Miller, CalRecycle’s Policy Director Zoe Heller, and Constance Hornig, Esq. The focus was on what to do after the China Waste Ban takes effect—what happens after that single domino is pushed over.

Go to to see the entire webinar for free.

In the meantime, you can watch tens of thousands of dominoes fall, right here.



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