An Explanation Of What We Know About What Is Happening with China and U.S. Recyclables

New restrictions by the Chinese government on what recyclables may be imported into their country are likely to have significant impacts on Washington States residential and commercial recycling programs.

China is a major destination for our states recyclable commodities.  

By the end of this year, the new regulations knowns as “China National Sword 2017” will take effect.  China has announced that, as of the beginning of 2018, they will no longer allow the importation of low-grade plastics and unsorted paper.  The regulations aim to increase the quality of the recyclable commodities entering China by restricting the amount of contamination permitted in import recyclables.  For instance, if a lid from a plastic food container is mixed in with recyclable aper, it contaminates the paper and reduces its value.

As the Chinese work to implement their new regulations, this is likely to be a period of transition, and over time, Washington residents may see changes in what is allowed to go into recycling bins, or other charges in their local recycling programs.

In the short term, more potentially recyclable materials are likely to go to the landfill because no market is available for them.