How China's 'Greenwall' Threatens Your City's Recycling Efforts

The United States' municipal recycling programs rely on China's voracious appetite for plastic trash. But the country's new ban on the import of certain types of solid waste may cause your city a giant, stinky headache.

1 minute read

May 10, 2013, 9:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"As Americans carefully separate the paper and plastics from their trash, most probably don’t realize that their country doesn’t recycle stuff so much as export it to be recycled elsewhere. Specifically, to China. For more than five years, scrap and trash has consistently been the US’s biggest export (paywall), for which China is the number one customer, and the market has doubled in size since 2006," explains Gwynn Guilford.

"But hints are emerging that American cities and the companies that sell trash are in for a rude awakening. A recent sign of this comes from Oregon, where truckloads of plastic are piling up at recycling depots because Chinese buyers cancelled their orders, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reports."

"And it’s not just plastic from Oregon. American waste recycling companies are starting to panic. 'What I’m hearing from folks in the industry, it’s that just that nothing is going,' the industry insider says. '[China's] not taking anything anymore. It’s a greenwall.'”


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