China's Green Fence policy, which took effect earlier this year and which drastically reduced the amount of materials accepted into that country for recycling, may end up providing an incentive for new innovations in recycling here at home. This is especially true for plastics, which have primarily been recycled in China up until now.
Until now, plastics labeled 3-7 were exported to China, and now that they're no longer accepting that material, much of it is being sent to the landfill. But according to dailykos.com, some say China's actions are providing opportunities here at home.
Historically, higher labor costs and environmental safety standards made processing scrap into raw materials much more expensive in the US than in China. So the US never developed much capacity or technology to sort and process harder-to-break down plastics like #3 through #7.
Green Fence might be a chance to change that, says Mike Biddle, CEO of California-based recycling company MBA Polymers. "China’s Green Fence offers a real opportunity to the US government and recycling industry to step up its efforts on recycling and catalyze a strong domestic recycling market in the US," Biddle said at a recent webinar on Green Fence.
Some US recyclers are already retooling and increasing the amount of plastics they recycle. If policies and incentives can be put in place to make it more profitable to recycle this material, consumers will be able to throw those plastics labeled 3-7 into the recycling bin with confidence that they will indeed be recycled, not sent to the landfill.
Photo credit: Michael Manas