China Restricts Imports-US Recycling Piles Up

Mountains of US recycling pile up as China restricts imports

January 01, 2018
Jason Margolis
PRI's The World

After you collect your cans, bottles and paper, then put them out by the curb, do you ever think about where everything goes after the truck picks things up? Largely, it goes to China.

Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave US ports bound for China. China sends the US toys, clothes and electronics; in return, some of America’s largest exports back are paper, plastic and aluminum.

But that equation is changing as of Jan. 1 — China is enforcing its new “National Sword” policy, which bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a much tougher standard for contamination levels.

China notified the World Trade Organization about the ban in July, essentially saying the country would no longer act as the world’s trash dump. Currently, China consumes 55 percent of the world’s scrap paper and is a major destination for other recyclables.

The National Sword policy follows China’s “Green Fence,” a 10-month policy the country enacted five years ago, which set initial standards for lower contamination levels for recycling.

The ban will