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

3 months 1 week 5 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
COLUMBIA—Lucky's Market in Columbia will remain open, while the two other Missouri stores, and others across the country will... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 8:19:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
MID-MISSOURI - A multi-day storm system is on its way to Missouri and could lead to icy roads and minor... More >>
5 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 7:44:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in Weather
COLUMBIA - One man and his dog are wrapping up a cross-country adventure that is far from ordinary. Michael Angelo... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 5:05:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia is preparing on Wednesday morning for possible winter weather. A 22 person work crew... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 5:00:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - New Fire Chief Andy Woody always knew he wanted to be a firefighter because he grew up around... More >>
9 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 4:42:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Tuesday marks what Jay Minor is hoping will be the first day of his last legislative session.... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:29:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in Continuous News
BOONVILLE - Kelsey Breshears only worked at Pinnacle Hospital for a year, and now she's on the hunt for a... More >>
10 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:11:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Bobby Bostic wasn't supposed to see freedom after his prison conviction at age 16 - his sentence... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:31:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The man accused of opening fire inside of Walmart on West Broadway on Friday night threatened to kill... More >>
11 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 2:19:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A gunman who opened fire outside of a Kansas City nightclub, killing a woman and... More >>
12 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 1:10:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
ROCHEPORT - Twenty vehicles crashed on Monday at the I-70 Missouri River Bridge near Rocheport. The Missouri State Highway... More >>
12 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:45:00 PM CST January 21, 2020 in News
(RENTON, Wash.) - The Boeing 737 Max is officially on hold. The assembly line in Renton, Washington, has stopped... More >>
16 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 9:39:00 AM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Former Pinnacle Hospital employees have the opportunity to find a new job at the job fair hosted by... More >>
22 hours ago Tuesday, January 21 2020 Jan 21, 2020 Tuesday, January 21, 2020 3:38:00 AM CST January 21, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri School of Journalism Professor Emeritus Rod Gelatt died Sunday January 19, at his home in Arizona. He... More >>
1 day ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 6:14:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Kansas City Chiefs' AFC Championship victory brought celebration and excitement to fans in Columbia yesterday. Teller's Gallery... More >>
1 day ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:59:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
ROCHEPORT — As of 3:45 p.m., the westbound lane of I-70 at the Missouri River bridge is now open, according... More >>
1 day ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:29:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
PULASKI COUNTY - Deputies with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department rescued a female driver from her car stuck in a... More >>
1 day ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 2:08:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The snow and bitter cold did not stop the NAACP's Columbia chapter from remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.... More >>
1 day ago Monday, January 20 2020 Jan 20, 2020 Monday, January 20, 2020 12:15:00 PM CST January 20, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 27°
2am 28°
3am 28°
4am 27°
5am 27°