Cities Suspend Recycling as Costs Rise and Benefits Fall

(p. A1) For decades, America and much of the developed world threw their used plastic bottles, soda cans and junk mail in one bin. The trash industry then shipped much of that thousands of miles to China, the world’s biggest consumer of scrap material, to be sorted and turned into new products.

That changed last year when China banned imports of mixed paper and plastic and heavily restricted other scrap.

. . .

The moves have caused a seismic shift in how the world deals with its waste. Long used to shipping off trash to poorer countries to sort and process, nations are now faced with the question of what recycling is worth to them.

. . .

(p. A11) For some towns, the finances don’t work. Waste collectors in Deltona, Fla., got just $5 a ton for mixed paper last year, compared with $120 a ton in 2017, while processing costs stayed flat at $80 a ton. “With the current state of the recycling market, there is little if any market for the processed collected recyclable materials,” City Manager Jane Shang said in January [2019]. The next month, Deltona suspended its recycling program.

For the full commentary, see:

Saabira Chaudhuri. “World Faces Trash Glut After China Ban.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, December 20, 2019): A1 & A11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 19, 2019, and has the title “Recycling Rethink: What to Do With Trash Now That China Won’t Take It.” Where there is a slight difference in wording in the sentences quoted above, the online version is followed.)

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