Is This the End of Recycling?
Monday, March 11, 2019
Posted by: Alyce Ryan
Americans are consuming more and more stuff. Now that other countries won’t take our papers and plastics, they’re ending up in the trash.
After decades of earnest public-information campaigns, Americans are finally recycling. Airports, malls, schools, and office buildings across the country have bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans and newspapers. In some cities, you can be fined if inspectors discover that you haven’t recycled appropriately.
But now much of that carefully sorted recycling is ending up in the trash.
For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China — tons and tons of it, sent over on ships to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But last year, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper — magazines, office paper, junk mail — and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away.
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