• King County feeling impacts from tighter Chinese recycling standards

    By: John Knicely


    Starting in January, China greatly reduced the amount of contaminated recycling it will buy from the U.S.

    That's when there is food or other contaminates mixed in with recycling, and China is where most of the recycling in Western Washington goes.

    “We remain concerned because our biggest market for processing our mixed-paper has gone away,” King County Solid Waste Director Pat McLaughlin told KIRO 7 on Wednesday.

    McLaughlin told the King County Council a couple local recycling processors have successfully met the guidelines.  But they are now looking for other markets to sell recycling.  The value of cardboard and paper dropped in the last year from $100 per ton to less than $5 per ton.

    It means more pressure on you to recycle correctly.

    “Keep recycling,” he said.  “But make it empty, clean and dry.  We have well-intended recyclers out there. We have some of the best recycling rates in the nation. But it gets confusing and that leads to contamination.  Things that don't belong in the recycle bin.”

    McLaughlin told KIRO 7 so far, no recycling bails have ended up in the garbage.  But King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert is not optimistic.  She’s studied the recycling issue for 12 years, and is specifically concerned for the life of the Cedar Hills Landfill.  It is projected to reach capacity in 2028.  She believes the stricter Chinese recycling standards will mean more of our recycling ends up in the garbage.

    “So, when you a tripling of the amount of garbage from our recycling centers going into our landfills, the plant is going to close a lot sooner than they thought,” Lambert said.  “And they're not making any of those calculations. They’re already saying the plant is going to close in 2028, and there is no plan of what to do after 2028. And that is my huge concern.”

    King County Solid Waste is now working on a more detailed impact study to be delivered to the King County Council by July 26th.


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