California Recycling Industry Struggles as China, Other Nations Stop Accepting Certain Materials

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“We just don’t have a market for a lot of this stuff,” said Kreigh Hampel, recycling coordinator for the city of Burbank. The California recycling industry has struggled after China stopped accepting certain kinds of recycled materials. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

“We just don’t have a market for a lot of this stuff,” said Kreigh Hampel, recycling coordinator for the city of Burbank. The California recycling industry has struggled after China stopped accepting certain kinds of recycled materials. (Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

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Visiting the Burbank recycling center is like stepping into an archaeological dig. Everywhere there is evidence of consumption — kombucha bottles, cardboard delivery packages, plastic water bottles, toothpaste tubes, vitamin bottles, and plastic bags.

“Our garbage tells our story,” said recycling coordinator Kreigh Hampel. “It drives home how disposable our lives are.”

Not long ago, these byproducts of a throw-away lifestyle found a market in China, allowing Americans to toss their garbage in recycling bins with a seemingly clean conscience. But in late 2017, China imposed a stringent ban on imports of certain scrap papers and plastics, creating a glut of material and roiling the global recycling industry.

Now, as still more Asian nations prepare to follow China’s lead, California’s recycling industry is struggling, posing hard choices for a state that prides itself on its image as an environmental beacon. A big hit came this month when RePlanet, California’s largest operator of recycling redemption centers, shut down and laid off 750 employees.

Read the full story at LATimes.com.

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