A Steady Path Forward for Recycling

25 Apr 2019

We have all heard plenty about China’s Green Fence and National Sword. The policies have led to tight quality standards, limited import licenses, strict inspections – and major market disruptions.

The shake-up is causing such concern in the North America recycling market because, over many years, we all got comfortable with strong demand for mixed paper and plastics and high tolerance for contamination across the board. Collection programs expanded and converted to carted single-stream systems, and the private sector developed materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in line with those trends. To win recycling service contracts, some companies chose not to bid the actual expense of collection and processing, anticipating that their portion of the revenue share would be sufficient to cover costs.

Now, as materials like mixed paper are at historic price lows, the two sides in recycling public-private partnerships (PPPs) – private MRF operators/haulers and the communities they serve – are encountering problems as they attempt to adjust. Simply put, our recycling PPPs are out of sync and need a reset.

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