The US recycling industry is under siege
The WSJ, in a good piece over the weekend, outlines how the US recycling industry is under siege.
The price for scrap paper and plastics has collapsed, which may mean that municipalities will likely be charging more for garbage – taking a little more of the US tax savings out of US consumers pocketbook (along with higher gas prices and other tariff related higher costs).
Back in the 1990, the US recycling boom took off in tandem with China’s demand for things like corrugated cardboard. The demand from China skyrocketed with their economic boom. It was the literal interpretation of the saying, “One’s man’s garbage became another man’s treasure”.
Part of the problem now, is the US garbage became less clean. That is, people started to recycle stuff with discarded food or “liquid soaked paper”. That’s not a good thing. It is estimated that 20% of the material shipped to China was not clean.
China slashed the contaminant limit to 0.5% this year, and last week, they suspended all imports of US recyclables until June 4th – regardless of the quality. Uh-oh.
The ships that brought China goods to the US, no longer have the US garbage going back.
With the trade tensions at high levels with China (and the world), and while focus is on the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, perhaps the Chinese have found an industry that hurts and gets a subliminal message across as well….”We don’t want or need your dirty garbage anymore….”