Even before coronavirus arrived on U.S. shores, California waste recyclers were reeling from the collapse of global markets for used plastics and other scrap materials — a predicament that diverted the contents of many blue recycling bins to local landfills.
But now, as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on all aspects of the economy, the situation has become even more dire for the struggling California waste recycling industry.
Even as hospitals and health officials struggle to cope with a new surge in infections, the pandemic has already significantly altered the waste stream, reducing the profits of many recyclers. Outbreaks and financial concerns have forced the closure of many redemption centers, while those that remain open have been flooded with customers. And, in a development that recycling advocates find particularly distressing, manufacturers are increasingly turning to cheaper, non-recycled plastics.
“This is the horror story that’s coming at us,” said Kreigh Hampel, recycling coordinator at Burbank Recycling Center. “Plastic is going to increase and with COVID. It was the perfect storm.”
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