Q: Why won't recyclers take rigid plastics anymore?
A: No market for the material. All recycling decisions are based on whether or not there is a market for the material. If you, as a recycling processor, don't have anyone buying the stuff from you, you'll quickly be swimming in it. Ewww...
Q: Why isn't there a market anymore?
A: China's Green Fence Policy. In February, China erected a virtual "Green Fence" and became more stringent with enforcing regulations governing contamination in bales of recycling.
Q: How long will this last?
A: Hard to say. Some are speculating at least until the end of the year, others are saying the changes are here to stay.
Q: So, then, what do I do with this stuff?
A: Put it in the garbage. Until new recycling markets open up, these materials are "true trash." (See above about recycling decisions being based on markets.) All of the answers here are for our market (Clark County, WA) and I would urge you to always check with your own local hauler for questions about recycling.
Q: But, isn't it bad for the planet to throw stuff in landfills?
A: Not really. Landfills, while not perfect, are the best disposal option we have at our, well, disposal (pardon the pun) at this time, given how much waste we create.
Q: I don't love these answers.
A: We don't either. But, without a market for these materials, these are the best, truthful answers we have for you at this point in time.
Q: What can I do about this? Who has control over these decisions?
A: Honestly, the best, most expedient thing you can do is to REDUCE your consumption. Everyone likes to focus on recycling (we've been taught to) but recycling, even at its best, is not a silver bullet for all our waste woes. You, as a consumer, have immediate control over one thing: how much (and what) you buy. Need to take cookies to a meeting and don't want to have to throw away the clamshell? Make them yourself or buy them in bulk from your local bakery.
|Clamshell packaging does not|
have a strong market currently.
Q: Any silver linings to all of this?
- There is evidence that when recycling is readily available, consumption increases. So, when we find ourselves in a situation like this one, it's reasonable to extrapolate that consumption may decrease and that's certainly a good thing.
- The end of readily available markets that weren't too stringent about contamination may mean that domestic recycling infrastructure investment (that doesn't get to take shortcuts) becomes more economically viable.
- This article addresses some of the pros/cons of Operation Green Fence for domestic recyclers.
Bottom line: if you aren't buying the stuff, you don't have to worry about the end-of-life of the stuff.