China continues to send a message to the rest of the world with its Green Fence policy: no more trash.
In an attempt to clean up its economy and environment, China has clamped down on imports of recyclables, refusing to accept shipments if they consider them too "dirty" to meet their standards. According to the Kennebec Journal:
China allows waste shipments to contain no more than 1 percent unrelated material. But Customs officials say some were found to be up to 40 percent unrecyclable trash.
US recycling, which has traditionally depended on China to process materials, is facing challenges.
"While we support Green Fence, it has increased our cost of doing business," said Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, a plastics recycler with facilities in California, Europe and southern China. "It takes longer and there are more inspections."
However, he and others are hopeful that the change will push "dirty" recyclers out of the market.
"We’ve had to compete for raw materials with people who treat the materials not in ways that protect workers or the environment," Biddle said by phone from California. "I see China moving toward encouraging companies like ours to develop."
Increasing the cost of dealing with China might create opportunities for US recyclers and spur investment in processing materials here at home. California already leads the way in creating an in-state infrastructure for recycling plastics and e-waste, materials that are commonly shipped overseas.
California’s infrastructure for washing, processing and remanufacturing plastics supports over 700 jobs. Meanwhile, the Electronic Waste Recycling Act has successfully curbed illegal export and disposal of e-waste by only providing reimbursement payments to recyclers that process materials in-state.
In order to increase green jobs, reduce Greenhouse Gases and our dependence on overseas end-use markets, we must continue to invest in the recycling economy and make it more profitable to use recycled materials than virgin resources in our products.
Find out more about the effects of China’s Green Fence.