Apr 19, 2019 | Updated: 11:14 AM EDT

Recycling is in Crisis

Mar 05, 2019 09:11 PM EST

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Recycling in Crisis
(Photo : https://pixabay.com/photos/scrap-iron-waste-junk-scrap-404081/)

Recycling has been the answer to the growing problem in environmental safety. The call for environmental awareness has paved the way for the recycling industry to go down to the root of the problem. So when the idea of it was introduced to the household, everyone wanted to take part in its growing popularity in the 80s. According to the Bureau of International Recycling, globally, the recycling industry is worth about $200 billion in total.

Companies and brokers all over the world line up to turn household trash into something new. It is some kind of straw to gold process that has become remarkably profitable for many. At the center of it all is the global trade of scrap materials and China is the leading exporter of recyclable materials until this year.

China has shut down its doors on accepting recyclable materials branding them as "hazardous." The price tag on plastic scrap has collapsed and it brought about a huge rundown of everything else including the cost of low-grade paper for recycling. And just like that, what used to be a lucrative trade is now in worldwide recycling crisis.

Eric Kawabata, the general manager of TerraCycle in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, says that the China band on plastic waste has created a global crisis in recycling. Japan, for instance, is one of the biggest suppliers of plastic in China, but this ban has caused Japan's plastic waste to build-up and they can't do anything about it. "Their incinerators are working double time to help the country get rid of plastic," he added.

Technically, China still accepts plastic wastes but it has set up a higher bar for its cleanliness and toxicity. Everything else that falls short of this leverage is considered in the industry as waste and falls under the ban.

In the US alone, many of the recyclable materials are sent to the landfill. This fact is the painful reversal of what recycling was all about when it was established in the 1980s. "It is meaningful for people in Oregon to recycle," says Laura Leebrick, the Rogue Disposal & Recycling in Southern Oregon chief. "People feel good about recycling because they feel like they are doing the environment some good," she added.

After the China ban, the Rogue Disposal & Recycling has started to put limits in the plastic wastes they accept form households. "With China out of the recycling picture, the cost of recycling has tripled," Leebrick says.

The challenge to the recycling industry is this - it is not easy to admit that recycling does not come for free but someone has to say it. It takes a huge paradigm shift to let the rest of the world in. Everyone has to think of recycling as a global problem. That's when solutions to the industry falling apart comes in. 

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