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China has long been one of our country’s leading buyers of recyclable paper and plastic products, taking about 40 percent of these materials nationwide. But China implemented a new policy in January 2018 that more or less prohibits the country from accepting recyclable paper and plastic from the U.S.
This policy has disrupted recycling programs across the country. Communities once dependent on China to purchase their paper and plastic recyclables are stockpiling these materials or, in the worst cases, sending them to the landfill while they search for domestic solutions. Moreover, the reduced demand for recyclables has caused their value to drop.
Fortunately, Central Ohioans really haven’t been affected by the ban. That’s because nearly all of the material collected through curbside and drop-off recycling programs goes to domestic buyers, including some in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest. In fact, Rumpke, which sorts the recyclables collected at the curb and from our drop-off locations, sells about 98 percent of this material to buyers in the U.S.
The recycling industry will eventually rebound with new domestic markets and new facilities to process recyclables. In the meantime, residents of Central Ohio can rest assured knowing that the recyclables they place at the curb each week are, indeed, being recycled for use in new products and are not being landfilled.
While some uncertainty may lie ahead, we can all contribute to a strong and healthy recycling system by keeping trash out of the recycling stream, purchasing products made from recycled content, and reducing and reusing materials whenever possible. By “Recycling Right,” we can continue to benefit from a recycling system that is resilient and successful for years to come.