TARGET 8: How China's recycling ban affects Mid-Missouri

4 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Thursday, October 10 2019 Oct 10, 2019 Thursday, October 10, 2019 4:46:00 PM CDT October 10, 2019 in News
By: Daniel Perreault, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - A decrease in demand for recycled goods 7,000 miles away is causing problems for Mid-Missouri's recycling industry.

In 2018, concerns over dirty or hazardous waste in recycling prompted China to ban recyclables with more than 0.5% contamination. According to Waste Management, the average contamination of recyclables at the curb is 25%.

"There was a concern, particularly on the plastic scrap imports, that they were causing environmental problems," said Joe Pickard, Chief Economist for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. "Another part of the picture, certainly, is that China is wanting to develop its own recycling infrastructure within the country."

Pickard said the new standards are harder for American cities to meet, which has led to a drop in the price of recycled materials. 

"When they're consuming that much of the world's feedstock, whenever all sudden, they stopped buying it, or stop importing it, well, that creates an oversupply everywhere," said General Manager of Midwest Fibre Sales in Springfield, Byron Wilcox.

Columbia Acting Solid Waste Manager Adam White said the city is currently generating less revenue than they did this time last year. 

“As the demand for products decreased with China no longer accepting recyclables from the United States, it has caused a reduction in the demand for the products we produce here at our facility," White said.

He said Columbia has historically sold recyclables to companies in America, but with China no longer in the market there is more competition.

"The companies that we used to focus on, or used to mainly buy materials from us, are now able to buy material from a wider area," White said. "In essence we are still selling to the same vendors, the main effect we are feeling is the reduction in what we are receiving from that product when it goes on the open market.”

Through September 25, the city has made $852,479, a 27% decrease from the $1,086,309 they made last year.

White said the city is seeing the majority of affects on the fiber side of its facility.

While Columbia feels a small pinch, other areas of Mid-Missouri have felt the brunt.

Earlier this year, Republic Services stopped collecting recyclables in St. Martins, Wardsville and Russellville.

In a letter to customers, the company said China’s changing standards made it impossible to maintain its courtesy recycling service.

Wilcox said rural communities are not being hit any harder than bigger cities.

"Rural communities themselves were even in the insanely high markets we were having - they were barely breaking even," he said. "They may not have the ability to weather the storm, to ride out the bad markets."

White says Columbia is better positioned to withstand the changes because the city operates a dual-stream system in its Material Recovery Facility.

"We are collecting the material from the citizens already somewhat pre-sorted, which allows us to have to have the same quantity of inputs to get it to an acceptable limits of contamination prior to selling it on the open market," White said. "Most cities are operating a single stream system where everything is intermixed, and more inputs are required for the separation of that material into marketable goods.”

While China was a large consumer of American recycled goods, Pickard said it is important to point out the American companies are the largest slice of the pie.

"We need to keep in mind that product should be designed for recycling, to make it easier to recycle these products," he said. "We need to develop, and markets to make sure that the materials, you know, come through the bins and get recycled through the recycling facilities have an end market that they can be sold into so there's really a whole sort of recycling chain of responsibility."

Wilcox said he believes these changes will be here to stay. 

"If you look at some long term pricing, the last seven years were the anomaly, with paper and cardboard being worth way over $100 a ton," he said. "That was the anomaly and now, this is just a very hard course correction to the norm that we experienced for 30 years beforehand."

Wilcox said it will become the new reality of the recycling industry moving forward.

"It's going to be a very slow acceptance of what I would call this new reality or what always should have been," he said. "There is going to be a cost to it."

While Columbia's recycling profits have been compressed, White said the city sees more value in recycling than simply making a profit.

“The city wants to do the right thing by the environment," White said. "We want to keep this material out of the landfill where it is not going to break down or consume airspace, so the city finds a lot of value in the processes associated with recycling outside of generating revenue."

As of October, St. Martins is still looking for recycling solutions. 

More News

Grid
List
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Bernie Sanders faced a torrent of attacks Tuesday night during a raucous debate that tested the Democratic... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:20:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - One group of former service men and women is making a difference across the state providing help... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:10:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - New technology installed by Ameren could provide more responsive service if severe weather comes to Jefferson City.... More >>
12 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 6:45:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia neighborhood watch is still relevant despite social media and sites like Nextdoor. Neighborhood watch programs encourage... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 5:51:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe today filed to run for election in 2020. Kehoe has served as... More >>
13 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 5:12:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia Public Works plow crews are scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, to prepare for possible... More >>
14 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 4:54:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY— Tuesday at the Missouri State Capitol, representatives heard testimony from people in regards to a house bill that... More >>
15 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 3:25:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Governor Mike Parson and Auditor Nicole Galloway filed to run for governor on Tuesday. It was... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 2:26:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA -- The Civil Rights Movement was a time of racially charged protests and marches. Some activists took to the... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 2:10:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri joined 38 other states in an investigation into Juul Labs on Tuesday. Those states are looking into... More >>
17 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 1:59:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia College announced Tuesday it is laying off 49 employees across the nation, including 25 at its Columbia... More >>
18 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 12:59:00 PM CST February 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA- An announcement from Bishop Shawn McKnight at Father Tolton today revealed the school's $6.2 million-dollar debt will be completely... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 11:46:00 AM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri joined a bipartisan, multistate investigation of JUUL Labs on Tuesday, according to Missouri Attorney General Eric... More >>
19 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 11:33:00 AM CST February 25, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- Snuggling next to my kitties while their furry chests softly rumble is a proven antidote to the day's... More >>
21 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 9:16:39 AM CST February 25, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
COLUMBIA - Police arrested a man connected to a deadly shooting during a home invasion in Columbia in early February.... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:17:28 AM CST February 25, 2020 in News
FULTON - Three people were arrested in Fulton Tuesday morning after one person fled from a traffic stop. A... More >>
23 hours ago Tuesday, February 25 2020 Feb 25, 2020 Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:03:00 AM CST February 25, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - In the state of Missouri, incarcerated or formerly incarcerated residents are unable to vote. There is... More >>
1 day ago Monday, February 24 2020 Feb 24, 2020 Monday, February 24, 2020 9:42:00 PM CST February 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - When snow falls in mid-Missouri, the sounds of shovels scraping across the driveway mean freedom to Larry Shinn.... More >>
1 day ago Monday, February 24 2020 Feb 24, 2020 Monday, February 24, 2020 9:33:00 PM CST February 24, 2020 in Continuous News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 30°
8am 31°
9am 32°
10am 33°
11am 34°