Recycling Roundup: Global Markets, California Materials, Local Solutions
California is feeling the fallout from a global disruption in markets for recycled scrap materials. Recent import restrictions from China, coupled with a decline in the market value of recyclable commodities, have resulted in significant recycling challenges for the state’s recycling industries and confusion for the public.
Each year, California exports about a third of the recyclable material it collects—including about two-thirds of the recyclable material collected from curbside bins. Historically, more than 60 percent of that material—particularly mixed paper and low-grade plastics—went to China for remanufacturing. The loss of Chinese markets is resulting in more stockpiling of materials at California processing and recycling facilities, increased disposal at landfills, and renewed efforts by local jurisdictions to ensure less contamination in residential recycling bins.
As part of CalRecycle’s commitment to keep Californians informed and to advance statewide discussions on this issue, the department developed this online resource to track market developments, share solutions from communities and businesses throughout the state, and to provide technical assistance and guidance to regulated entities. The website also highlights potential policy reforms to reduce waste in California and manage our own materials rather than exporting them. Check back often—the webpage is updated regularly with new information.