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Why America's recycling crisis may get even worse very soon

Brian Sozzi

China’s clampdown on imported waste is about to go up a notch, much to the dismay of U.S. recycling plants working at capacity.

The emerging market country said in April it would ban 32 types of scrap metals for importation to recycling plants. Sixteen materials, such as compressed automobile metals, will be banned from import starting on Dec. 31, 2018. The other 16 types, including wood pellets, titanium waste and scrap, are slated to be banned on Dec. 31, 2019.

In a bid to clean up its heavily polluted air, China put into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 a ban on 24 categories of recyclable material. Seeing as the country has been a dumping ground for recyclable waste from around the world since the 1980s, it’s efforts are logical if not long overdue. 

But China’s new heavy hand on trash collection has triggered a borderline crisis in the U.S., according to industry experts. It’s hard to imagine more bans will do anything to alleviate the problem.

“China has definitely caused this current crisis. It’s not really related to the trade war, for them it’s more an environmental issue,” Republic Services CEO Don Slager told Yahoo Finance. But Slager, who leads the second largest waste disposal company behind rival Waste Management, said it is unlikely that the crisis will get worse for his company because it has found other markets to unload waste.

“We have done a lot of work to open new trade lanes and ports in Thailand, Vietnam, Korea,” Slager said.

And you thought buying that new Apple iPhone didn’t have an environmental impact.


Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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