- China updates solid waste management plan and softens language regarding banning of all solid waste (and scrap) imports by 2020
- Indonesia regulating fiber scrap imports with varying restrictions on contaminants
- Federal legislation for recycling and waste reduction grants introduced, and plastic waste pollution legislation in the works
- Non-recyclable or difficult-to-recycle plastic waste added to Basel Convention, requiring prior consent of importing countries beginning in 2021.
- The Recycling Partnership launches West Coast Contamination Initiative
Recycling in California
The export of recyclable materials is a key component of California's recycling infrastructure. Recent changes to international policies restricting foreign imports of recyclable materials, coupled with the need to reduce contamination levels in recycling streams and a declining global market value for some recyclables, have resulted in significant challenges for the solid waste and recycling industry, local governments, and Californians.
Each year, California exports about a third of the recyclable material it collects. Historically, most of that material—particularly unsorted mixed paper and mixed plastics—went to China for processing and manufacturing into new products. China’s recent strict contamination limits and import bans have led to a stockpiling of materials at California solid waste and recycling facilities and declining markets for recyclables.
International Policies Affecting Global Commodity Markets
Global policies are reshaping the flow of recyclable material around the world. See more information about why and how China and other countries have restricted recyclable imports.
State Response and Resources
In the immediate term, CalRecycle is coordinating with local enforcement agencies in order to address challenges and provide guidance around storage of processed recyclable material. In addition, the department is coordinating with local jurisdictions to share examples of local actions that address changing markets for recyclable materials. See more information about the state’s responses and available resources.
Local Response and Resources
See more information about how California jurisdictions are responding to market changes.
Timeline of Recycling Market Changes
Additional Information on International Recycling Markets
- Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI): China’s Scrap Trade Policy
- Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA): What You Need to Know About China’s Waste Import Restrictions
- National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA)
- World Trade Organization: China and the WTO
Research and Publications
- Science Advances: The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade
- Discarded–Communities of the Frontlines of the Global Plastic Crisis-Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
- Data from the global plastics waste trade 2016-2018 and the offshore impact of China’s foreign waste import ban–Greenpeace
- Recycling BIN Summit 2018–Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce (10/29/18)
- China’s Green Sword: Impacts to State and Local Governments–U.S. EPA (11/20/17)
- National Sword–What is It and How will it Impact My Program? The Recycling Partnership (10/19/17)
- Media’s Response to the Recycling Markets Crisis (up-to-date list of media articles), California Refuse Recycling Council
- From Green Fence to red alert: A China timeline, Resource Recycling
- Recycling–Industry news and insights, Waste 360
- How recycling is changing in all 50 states, Waste Dive
- Plastic News
- Plastics (January feature topic), Frank News
- Waste, The Conversation
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