At The Recycling Depot in Seattle, Manager Joseph Salvatore is waiting to see what China's new restrictions will mean for recycling in Washington state.
"China is restricting paper products and really a lot of other stuff too, but what really impacts us is the paper products," said Salvatore.
When it comes to recycled material, China has been the biggest importer worldwide. Beginning January 1, 2018, China will begin restricting what recyclables it takes because of concerns about high levels of contamination.
A statement from Seattle Public Utilities reads:
"Materials most likely to be impacted are low-grade mixed plastics and mixed waste paper. China is restricting the amount of contamination permitted. Seattle is not changing its recycling program currently. We look at this as an opportunity to encourage customers to focus on reducing contamination in the recyclables they set out at the curb. Ensuring that recyclables are clean, and not contaminated by items such as food, will help ensure our materials meet the new requirements."
Brad Lovaas, Executive Director of Washington Refuse and Recycling Association, said if the new restrictions go into place it is possible recyclables will end up in the landfill.
"We have never imagined a market, like China for recyclables, would come to an end with five months notice," said Lovaas during a phone interview.
Salvatore says the looming restrictions are already bringing change.
"We are still selling our product, but the prices have tumbled more than half," said Salvatore. "If that price drops below a certain price, then they (customers) just don't pick it up. It eventually ends up in the landfills."
Salvatore points out that his business is able to keep contamination low, and he is optimistic.
"As long as the recycling companies keep their product clean, I think China will again start purchasing," he said.
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