4/12/2006 - File photo dated 12/4/2006 of plastic at a recycling bay at BIFFA recycling plant in Beaumont Leys in Leicestershire. Prime Minister Theresa May will pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years as she unveils the Government

Recycling Plant (Photo credit: PA Images/Sipa USA)

China Suspends Imports; Recyclables Bound For Landfill

Margie Shafer
May 17, 2018 - 4:06 pm

BENICIA (KCBS RADIO) - The recycling industry in America is currently under siege by China. KCBS Radio's Margie Shafer reports a large percentage of what was intended to be recycled is ending up in landfills.

China has essentially stopped accepting recyclables from America and most of the world. "They closed their borders and we're unable to ship there." Steve Moore is President of Pacific Rim Recycling in Benicia and says mixed paper and cardboard are the largest commodities in the recyclable single stream. That is what's put into our recycling bin, bound for a processing facility.

China is demanding very low contamination rates be met. No more than half of 1% percent. The paper being sent to them was 10% to 15% percent contamination rate.

Paper is hard to keep clean when it's mixed with other things. "We have been degrading the flow over the years, as we have tried to add different recyclable materials into a single stream pass." Moore said.

So all that collected contaminated paper... "the volumes are so high you can only store for a certain time before you have to actually take the material to the landfill."

Moore says to improve the situation, we have to change the flow going to the recycling facilities and add technology to better clean it up.