Chinese crackdown could send your recycling to a landfill

by: John Knicely Updated:

The recycling you sort through to save the environment could soon end up in a landfill instead.

 China, the world’s largest buyer of recyclables, is cracking down on recycled items that are contaminated with food and garbage.  

John Knicely will tell you what you can do to keep your recycling from ending up in a landfill for a story at 5 p.m. >>http://kiro.tv/LiveNews

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Starting January 1, China will only accept recyclable materials that have a 0.3 percent contamination rate.

“Currently, with our manpower and equipment, that's just not attainable,” said Seth Little, the Seadrunar Recycling Director.  “Before, the threshold would be 1.5 to 2 percent. That would be difficult to reach. But when you get down to 0.3 percent, you're dealing with rejections and no outlet at all for the material you're producing.”

A Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson told KIRO 7 they're not changing the recycling they accept, but instead are doing an informational campaign encouraging people to clean their recyclables.

If you have a plastic container of food,  make sure there's nothing left in it before you recycle. If it's a drink make sure there's no liquid. Their phrase is “when in doubt, throw it out.”  Throw it in the trash if you even have a question.

“It's a health hazard,” Little said. “It's a risk. There's no dishwashers down at the recycling (materials recovery facilities).  So that contamination rides right with it in a container to another country.”

For decades, China just accepted that contamination, but the Chinese government found many countries were essentially sending them their trash. For recycling companies in the U.S., it'll be cheaper to take most recycling to the landfill.  Everyone is now watching to see if China sticks to the tough new guidelines.

Little says one other possibility is to pass the cost on to you.

“Recycling is a free service,” he said. “It's a commodity that has a value. My opinion would be if they can no longer move this material at no cost, then there would have to be a cost put back onto the consumer.”


 

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