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What Chinese import policies mean for all 50 states

Recycling markets are volatile by nature and this has been one of the more turbulent stretches in recent history.

Opinions still differ on whether China's new import policies will last, or how bad the effects were in the first place. Though by now it's become clear that those effects are spreading in certain regions of the U.S. in the near-term.

Waste Dive began tracking this across all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) back in Nov. 2017 with a companion feature story. We sent a short questionnaire to each environmental agency about whether they’d heard concerns, what guidance they were offering, and whether any disposal bans were in place (specifically on material affected by China) that would require waivers in a worst-case scenario. We know that state agencies aren't always involved, disposal ban details vary and the local factors involved are often complex.

Since then, we've continued to update this page with details from our own reporting and elsewhere. We scan the news daily, and try to update this page at least weekly, but can't spot it all. See information that doesn’t reflect your knowledge or would help expand ours? Send an email to [email protected].

For a state-by-state breakdown, click on the menu below or scroll through. 

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Impact Assessment Key

Effect

Reported status of China’s proposed import policies on local recycling

Minimal = Aside from the average market fluctuations, no major issues were reported.

Noticeable = Material is still moving, but with more difficulty, and local programs may be considering cuts.

Heavy = Recycling programs have been cut back, recyclable material is being disposed, or markets are shrinking.

Disposal ban – Y/N

The presence of a disposal ban gives us a sense of how each state might be affected by China's restrictions. In states that have disposal bans on recyclable materials affected by China's import policies, service providers or municipalities may need to seek disposal permission if market options are limited.

State Action

What state agencies or recycling associations are doing in response.

Alabama

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal Ban No
  • State Action N/A

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Alabama, they haven't been reported to the state’s Department of Environmental Management or local media outlets. According to the Southeast Recycling Development Council, the region has felt commodity price shifts like everyone else but has more domestic end markets. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Alaska

What we know

This wasn't a statewide priority yet for Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation as of Nov. 2017, but it is affecting some local programs. Multiple small municipalities, many of which have to export their material south to Spokane, WA, have been told by contractors such as Republic Services and Waste Connections that markets for mixed plastics and paper are gone. Sitka, located on an island, has dropped them from its program. According to Alaska Public Media, Ketchikan and Petersburg have done the same. Juneau, the state capital, may see effects on its curbside single-stream program but is confident in the quality of source-separated material coming from its drop-off center.

Arizona

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal Ban No
  • State Action Sharing webinars

What we know

According to correspondence with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s recycling coordinator in November, businesses were “struggling some” with commodity prices and local governments have been asking questions, but material was still moving without notable disruption. More recently, at a Jan. 24 work session of the Page City Council, Republic Services told local officials that processing fees were rising fast. One unique factor in Page was that education had been minimal to date and the city's current contamination rate is around 40% as a result. Both parties agreed to revisit the matter in 30 days with new solutions.

Arkansas

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal Ban No
  • State Action N/A

What we know

Like other Southeast states, Arkansas is seen as less affected by the recent market shifts. Aside from some discussion of the topic during the Arkansas Recycling Coalition’s fall conference there hasn’t been any guidance posted on state agency or association sites. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

California

What we know

California has been flying under the radar compared to its other West Coast neighbors, though some believe the situation is worse than reported and the discussion has become more public in recent weeks. While no major program changes have been reported, the California Resource Recovery Association confirmed that this is a top priority among its members and the state is feeling effects.

Larger cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles remain confident about their options and haven't made any program changes. Though northern recyclers such as ReThink Waste and the Ecology Center have expressed concerns about low prices. In December, San Jose released a memo outlining how this shift could affect local recycling. More recently, Recology confirmed that it has had to find new markets, upgrade sorting capabilities and look for short-term storage capacity since the majority of its material was going to China. Metropolitan Recycling in Bakersfield has reduced its line speed by half and added more staff to meet new contamination standards, with an estimated 600,000 tons of baled material now stockpiled, as reported by 23ABC News.

At a Jan. 23 meeting, CalRecycle confirmed that about one-third of the state's recycled material has historically been exported and much of that has been going to China. This has been particularly true for mixed paper, which the state defines to include OCC, as reported by Resource Recycling. The agency continues to emphasize its efforts around a new packaging policy, and ongoing support of domestic processing infrastructure, as potential solutions.

Colorado

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

As of November, Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment hadn’t been getting questions about China’s import policies, but said recyclers would need to talk to them if markets declined significantly. State regulations require MRFs to meet a 75% minimum material turnover rate. Waivers would be needed to change that and stockpile material.

At the local level toward the end of 2017, Boulder County reported minimal market effects and was hopeful this could spur more interest in expanding domestic end markets. In more rural areas, Durango stopped receiving revenue payments that had been covering the cost to bale and ship material to New Mexico. The smaller municipality of Cortez has stopped accepting newspaper.

More recently, the Denver Business Journal reported that heavy effects still weren't being felt because Colorado was less reliant on export markets. Though there is a sense that could change when new contamination standards take full effect in March and more domestic options are needed. The Colorado Association for Recycling's June conference theme is "Who Needs China's Markets? Building Solutions in Colorado."

Connecticut

What we know

Some of Connecticut MRFs do send mixed paper to China, and like other parts of the Northeast there have been reports of scattered stockpiling, but as of November the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection wasn't hearing about any major issues yet. The agency remains in contact with local operators and will want to hear a plurality of concerns before considering any recycling waivers. A brand new universal education campaign called "What’s In What’s Out" was announced on Nov. 15 to help reduce contamination.

Delaware

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

The market for mixed plastics has evaporated in Delaware over the past few months, due in part to QRS Recycling being idled in Maryland. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority is confident that its MRF can meet stricter contamination standards with less investment than others if required. This modern facility, the only one in the state, is operated by ReCommunity. Delaware’s Universal Recycling Law does prohibit haulers from directly disposing of material, but allows for that material to be disposed as residue once it passes through the MRF. If markets do decline and widespread waivers are needed the DSWA would likely work directly with the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for a blanket policy rather than a case-by-case scenario.

District of Columbia

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action Offering ongoing communication

What we know

The D.C. Department of Public Works was well aware of the market situation in November, but so far none of the city’s local contractors had communicated issues about finding markets for material. In fact, D.C. was one of multiple cities to expand its recycling program last fall.

Florida

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection hadn’t received any questions or feedback about China’s import policies in November, but expected that mixed plastics and paper could be dropped from local programs across the state’s 67 counties if China's enforcement was serious.

State permission would not be required in this event. While Florida law requires counties to recycle a significant portion of at least four major material packaging types it doesn’t specify what kinds.

Though contamination is a concern, comprising an estimated 30% of the state's recycling stream, and a new "Rethink. Reset. Recycle" campaign was launched on America Recycles Day to raise awareness about the issue. In November, Polk County officials cited China as a reason for eliminating glass, magazines and certain plastics from the local residential recycling program. In December, the St. Augustine Record reported that market shifts had changed contract terms in Jacksonville. In January, a state bill on environmental regulation (SB 1308) was amended to include extensive language around reducing contamination through contract structures, education and other strategies.

Georgia

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Georgia, the state’s Department of Natural Resources wasn’t aware of them in November. According to the Southeast Recycling Development Council, the region has felt commodity price shifts like everyone else but has more domestic end markets. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Hawaii

  • Effect
    Heavy
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Deferring to counties

What we know

The Hawaii State Department of Health doesn’t maintain any control over recycling markets or regulations. That is up to the state’s four counties. At the local level in Honolulu, China’s import policies are a major strain on what had already been a difficult recycling market. Because of its island geography Honolulu must export all of its materials. Glass goes to California. Aluminum goes to Alabama. The rest had been going to China, but more of it is now going to Southeast Asian countries.

Though a recent report by Honolulu's city auditor said there could be potential cost savings if material went to the local H-Power waste-to-energy facility instead. Necessary changes to local regulations and the state solid waste management plan would be needed to allow for that to happen. In late January, the Honolulu City Coucil deferred any decision on changing its recycling program until further information was available.

Meanwhile, Maui County is no longer accepting mixed paper at its four drop-off recycling centers. The county has also restricted its list of accepted plastics to #1 and #2, and only wants clean containers, as reported by Maui Now.

Idaho

  • Effect
    Heavy
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

According to correspondence with Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality in November, the majority of material is currently transported out of state for further processing. Fiber and plastics often go to the West Coast, where they may be exported. Depending on the amount of material some domestic markets do exist for Idaho’s material. Brokers were also said to be pursuing alternative markets. 

Since then, Republic Services stopped accepting 3-7 plastics in Southwest Idaho, particularly Ada County. This includes the cities of Meridian and Boise. Though Boise residents have since been told to keep putting the material in their carts because it would have a new end market by spring. The city was selected for a $50,000 grant to participate in the Hefty EnergyBag program and send material to Renewology in Utah for fuel conversion. MagicValley.com reported on Jan. 18 that residents in the Twin Falls area also lost access to recycling service for 3-7 plastics. PSI Environmental, which offers biweekly collection in the area, made the change at the end of last year. Magic Valley Recycling has adopted a similar policy.

In February, Boise was faced with a new challenge. Due to rising processing costs, the city is now paying $100,000 per month to recycle an estimated 640 tons of mixed paper. City council members have been presented with the option to raise rates or temporarily discontinue the program. The possibility of switching back to source-separated recycling was even raised. Further decisions are expected in March.

Illinois

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Illinois the state’s Environmental Protection Agency wasn’t aware of them in November. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Indiana

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Indiana the state’s Department of Environmental Management wasn’t aware of them in November. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Iowa

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Iowa the state’s Department of Natural Resources wasn’t aware of them in November. Though the agency doesn’t directly track recycling and said it wouldn’t necessarily be the first to hear. The November edition of the Iowa Recycling Association's newsletter featured detailed interviews with many of the state's largest recyclers. While none reported program changes or market collapses in the state, prices for mixed paper and rigid plastics were cited as problematic. Reducing contamination was also mentioned as a priority, particularly for Iowa City which is switching to single-stream soon.

Kansas

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

According to communication with the state’s Department of Health and Environment in November, area recyclers had been following the developments for “many months.” While China’s import policies are expected to have less of an effect than on the coasts, prices are expected to take a hit.

As of Jan. 18, the Lawrence Journal-World reported that local recycler Hamm was only exporting about 10% of its material to China prior to the policy shift, and began shifting away from that market last summer. Because of that it has been less affected and didn't report any major stockpiling issues. Though because of the broader commodity markets Hamm may have to raise processing costs, which in turn would affect prices for residents in Lawrence.

Kentucky

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

If market effects are being felt in Kentucky the state’s Department of Environmental Protection wasn’t aware of them in November. While the agency doesn’t directly track recycling flows it does expect that widespread market effects could result in lower prices for the state. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Louisiana

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality doesn’t regulate material recovery facilities and had not heard about any market effects in November. Have you heard more details? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Maine

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Communication

What we know

Maine's Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t track recycling markets directly. In November, the Maine Resource Recovery Association said it has been experiencing recent market effects. Lower grade rigid plastics have become harder to move over the past year and MRRA reported the market was “almost at a standstill.” Like for other states along the East Coast, the idling of QRS Recycling in Maryland was a setback on that front. At the local level, both private and government service providers have also been seeing a drop in prices but so far no program changes have been reported as a result.

Though MRF operators such as ecomaine, Casella and Coastal Recycling have all reported issues moving material, particularly mixed paper, according to the Portland Press Herald. Some new markets have been found in the Northeast and Canada, as well as Southeast Asia, but prices are down. The MRRA also reported ongoing challenges finding markets for plastic and is currently sitting on material.

Maryland

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

Recycling markets are a local matter, but the state’s Department of the Environment “continues to monitor implementation of local recycling plans and potential impacts that international markets may have on Maryland's ability to meet its waste diversion goals.” Local governments and businesses hadn't been getting in touch with any questions as of November. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Massachusetts

What we know

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection began been fielding questions from businesses and municipalities last fall. Based on MRF capacity issues due to slower processing speeds, and other extenuating circumstances, the DEP has issued at least 30 disposal waivers for unsorted single-stream material. The agency has also been discussing the implications of China’s import policies at events, sharing contamination guidance such as the “Recycling IQ Kit" and promoting a range of available grants or loans.

At the local level, some MRF operators such as Casella have seen a sharp drop in overall commodity values while spending more on labor to improve their bale quality. Prior to the import restrictions, Casella had been exporting about 25% of its material to China. Now, more material is going to Southeast Asian countries. E.L. Harvey & Sons, based in Westborough, has received local and national media attention for the large amount of material that has piled up on its property. 

Coastal municipalities serviced by JRM Hauling and Recycling were told that the company would no longer collect highly contaminated recyclables as of January, and now has a "zero tolerance policy" for plastic bags, as reported by the Gloucester Times. Farther west, the towns of Charlemont and Shelburne have stopped collecting bulky rigid plastics. In Belmont, hauler FW Russell & Sons Disposal demanded that the town amend its contract under threat of service disruptions or litigation, as reported by the Belmontonian and the Belmont Citizen-Herald. Residents that are part of the Martha's Vineyard solid waste district will be seeing a rate increase earlier than expected and individual customers of Bruno’s Waste Management will see an even higher increase, as reported by the Vineyard Gazette.

Michigan

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

Aside from the price fluctuation, Michigan wasn’t feeling major market effects in November. The state's Department of Environmental Quality had already been focusing on cleaning up the stream and was planning a forum to elevate the issue. Per state law, MRFs are required to remain under a 10% residual rate so that adds further incentive to produce good product. Inspectors from Chinese brokers had also been spotted in the state. Even though material was moving at the time, the DEQ was still interested in seeing expansion of domestic (or Canadian) markets expand for material such as cardboard and mixed plastics to decrease reliance on exporting.

In January, Gov. Rick Snyder brought new attention to the topic by admitting that failing to double the state's recycling rates had been "one of the most disappointing initiatives" during his tenure. Since then, both Snyder and state legislators have released multiple proposals to increase funding and access to recycling. Collecting clean material, that could be used by domestic manufacturers, is a priority within this latest push. 

Minnesota

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency had been hearing about price concerns from local brokers, and mentioned the possibility of stockpiling, but hadn't received any requests for disposal ban waivers in November. According to the agency, the state is actively looking to develop new domestic markets for mixed plastics and paper. If the plastic can be processed and pelletized within Minnesota there may be markets for it in the upper Midwest. Though the necessary investment to do that will take time. As for the paper, the state is exploring ways to use it “as a cellulose product that can be made into something else besides back into paper.” At the local level, MRFs are especially focused on quality. For at least one, Dem-Con, this has meant investing in new automated sorting technology.

As of January, Minnesota MRFs have reported the usual challenges but nothing on the level of other states. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency told MPR News that it was "a long way away" from granting any type of disposal permission.

Mississippi

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality hadn’t received many questions on China’s import policies as of November, though was “concerned” about the situation and planned to discuss it at a fall conference. Have you heard about any other local effects? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Missouri

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

Even though most parts of Missouri hadn’t felt the full weight of China’s import policies in November, the state’s Department of Natural Resources said the news was “very much on the radars of local governments and businesses.” The agency remains in close communication with a Solid Waste Advisory Board, consisting of solid waste management districts and industry representatives, about preparing for future effects. Like Minnesota, Missouri is also interested in developing and expanding domestic end markets.

In December, effects began to appear in at least one part of the state. 2 Rivers Industries has notified residents in the small city of Hannibal that it would no longer be accepting #3-7 plastics at the drop-off center, as reported by WGEM. "Unfortunately, there is no present economical way to recycle these plastic types in the US," said Executive Director and CEO Melonie Nevels in an announcement.

Montana

  • Effect
    Heavy
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

In November, an official from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said there had been a couple instances of people wondering why plastics collection might be slowing down. Officials noticed the market issues and said things could actually get worse, as winter weather tends to inhibit recycling in the state generally. The DEQ said that it’s working with people one-on-one as necessary to address questions.

Those predictions proved correct come January, as reported by the Daily Inter Lake. In the Flathead Valley area, Pacific Steel and Recycling has stopped accepting plastics and Valley Recycling hasn't been able to move mixed plastic bales for months. Due to these issues, Flathead County Public Works has announced it will no longer take mixed plastics or steel cans at drop-off sites as of Feb. 15. The Western News also reported that the Lincoln County Landfill may fill its current cell more quickly than expected because local plastic recycling has been suspended.

Nebraska

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

Officials with Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality said that they weren't aware of any direct effects on recycling in the state coming from China’s import policies as of November. Have you heard differently? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Nevada

  • Effect
    Heavy
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

Officials from the DEP said the ban was “greatly affecting markets” since most recyclables from Nevada are sent to China through the ports of Oakland or Los Angeles. In northern Nevada, the Salvation Army was collecting recyclables from local businesses and putting the material up for bid, but had to stop as of Oct. 1. Waste Management was setting up to take over those contracts, largely to collect cardboard.

New Hampshire

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication and webinar referrals

What we know

New Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services doesn’t directly track recycling markets and works closely with the locally based Northeast Resource Recovery Association (NRRA) for the latest information. In November, NRRA said drop-off programs were experiencing less difficulty because they had cleaner material, but that markets are tight for everyone across the board. The early fall drop in OCC prices was a “huge eye-opener” for members, and local processing costs are rising for all materials due to multiple factors, so this issue remains a pressing one for New Hampshire communities.

In January, Concord announced it would no longer accept curbside material contaminated with plastic bags. That material will be tagged for non-compliance and left behind. This guidance comes in part from Casella, which processes all of Concord's residential material at its Boston MRF. The city isn't expected to see price increases because it had already signed a fixed price contract through 2025, as reported by the Concord Monitor.

New Jersey

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Association guidance

What we know

The Association of New Jersey Recyclers (ANJR) asked its members for reports in both November and February and didn't hear back about any notable market effects. At least one county intermediate processing facility - New Jersey’s term for a MRF - had Chinese inspectors inside on a regular basis to root out imperfect bales. Reports have also come in about facilities slowing down their lines and adding labor to increase quality. Though overall, material is still moving. If the situation changes, and disposal of certain material is considered, counties would have to amend their individual plans that are required by New Jersey’s recycling mandate. Regardless of what happens ANJR plans to increase its focus on reducing contamination, especially from broken glass.

New Mexico

What we know

New Mexico has been feeling effects for months, though area recyclers have been finding luck with both domestic and Mexican end markets. Due to limited state agency resources much of the work has fallen to the New Mexico Recycling Coalition (NMRC) in terms of communication.

The organization had been hearing reports of price drops in November. Because much of New Mexico is set up on a hub and spoke model, where only the hubs pay for processing, smaller or more rural municipalities were seen as less susceptible to these effects than in other states. In larger cities, especially those with single-stream collection, some service providers have been asking for a temporary suspension of their revenue-sharing agreements in contracts. As of February, that appeared to be the new normal.

Smaller cities such as Las Cruces are working to clean up their streams through education campaigns due to escalating costs at Friedman Recycling, as reported by KRWG. The processing costs charged by Friedman are expected to rise in the coming months and new expectations are in the works for communities to back-haul their own residuals. While the NMRC wasn't aware of any municipalities altering their programs yet, it expected that some of the smaller ones self-hauling to Friedman could begin limiting their lists or working directly with brokers to sell their own source-separated material.

New York

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanLocal
  • State Action Offering education and guidance

What we know

In November, an official from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said there had been some concern from municipalities, but no company or local government had stopped collecting recycling. The department’s guidance has been focused on quality control and reducing contamination to improve market options. The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency has begun enforcing tighter contamination standards as a result, with financial penalties for haulers, according to the Daily Freeman. Service providers in New York City have reported increasingly tight margins on many materials - including once reliable commodities such as cardboard - but say it is still moving. Though glass remains a serious challenge, and was one long before China's import restrictions were announced.

North Carolina

What we know

Details from North Carolina are spotty, but do show scattered issues. In November, rigid plastic stockpiling was reported in Orange County according to The Daily Tar Heel. Per that story, this was because Sonoco Recycling's Raleigh MRF couldn't find a market for the material.

The state’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service (DEACS) is also very engaged on the topic. During a fall SWANA conference, DEACS gave a detailed presentation on what was happening and how to prepare. Advice included not making any “hasty decisions” on changes to recycling programs, avoiding dependency on revenue from material sales, maintaining communication with MRFs and helping increase demand for domestic markets.

More recently, the Port City Daily reported that New Hanover County has been stockpiling cardboard for months. Concerns are growing about the material degrading due to weather, but Sonoco has been asking the county to hold off on selling it for a lower price in hopes of markets improving. Like many others, the local recycling facility has slowed its lines and added labor to meet new quality standards.

North Dakota

  • EffectUnknown
  • Disposal BanSome materials
  • State Action Unkown

What we know

Efforts to contact the North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association and state Department of Health were unsuccessful in November. Have you heard more? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Ohio

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Unknown

What we know

Efforts to contact the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in November were unsuccessful. Other sources reported no notable effects in the state. In January, WTVG reported that Toledo would begin cracking down on contamination but didn't link this directly to China's import policies. Have you heard more? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Oklahoma

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Discussions, no formal guidance

What we know

The impact of Chinese policies may not be felt too hard in Oklahoma, since many end users of recycled material are located within state lines, according to correspondence with the state's Department of Environmental Quality in November. The city of Norman has begun to feel market effects, and may have to raise rates in the future, but hasn't changed its program yet. The city's current contract with Republic Services is up this summer so any such conversations would occur then, as reported by The Norman Transcript in early January.

Oregon

What we know

Oregon is feeling the effects, and feeling them hard. Senator Ron Wyden even co-signed a letter to the Chinese ambassador requesting more dialogue in January.

Recyclers throughout the state have experienced challenges finding markets for material, with China effectively shut off as an option at the moment, and some have had to request disposal permission. As of Feb 14, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had granted disposal concurrences to 14 companies. DEQ emphasizes that these requests are only granted after "all other options are exhausted" and accounted for a very small percentage of recyclable material in the state. An estimated 6,107 tons have been disposed so far.

DEQ's broader priority is to move toward a sustainable materials management system, though that doesn't help address near-term challenges. To address the current crisis, DEQ has created communication material to share with all interested parties and is hosting regular stakeholder meetings on the topic. A large meeting is scheduled in Portland on Feb. 15. So far, the Metro regional government hasn't taken a position on any changes to recycling programs.

As this plays out, each of the state's major MRFs has experienced its share of trouble with contamination and stockpiling. In January, the Oregon Resource Recovery Association released a draft list of suggested materials for municipalities to include in single-stream programs based on feedback from processors. The hope is that this will help local officials have a unified message on education. Essentially it includes paper, cans and plastic bottles. Mixed plastics, aseptic containers and plastic bags are seen as particularly disruptive. 

Medford has already limited its accepted materials to what is on ORRA's list. Salem has also discussed possible changes. Rogue Disposal, which services multiple municipalities, recently followed suit according to the Mail Tribune. The cities of Ashland and Talent aren't seeing any changes because Recology takes their material to California, as reported by the Ashland Daily Tidings. Milton-Freewater's curbside program was recently canceled due to market pressures, and broader legal issues related to the employment of disabled workers, as reported by the East Oregonian. Residents in Klamath County may also see curbside service cut due to price increases from Waste Management, according to the Herald and News.

Pennsylvania

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action N/A

What we know

In November, an official from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection told Waste Dive that it hadn't noticed any effects, nor had it received any requests to landfill recyclable material instead of processing it. DEP is ready to address any specific concerns or questions if they come up, however.

As of late December, The Meadville Tribune reported that Crawford County would be suspending its drop-off recycling program due to contamination concerns. A new $200 penalty from Waste Management for each contaminated load was cited as the main factor.

Rhode Island

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action N/A

What we know

In November, Rhode Island officials hadn't received any inquiries for guidance related to China’s new policies and hadn't developed new guidance for those policies. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation's MRF does export some paper to China, but hadn't lost the ability to do so yet. Though producing high-quality streams in the face of increasing contamination is still an issue, according to a November Providence Journal article.

South Carolina

What we know

Like other states in the Southeast, it appears that South Carolina hasn’t really felt the effects of China’s import restrictions. In November, state officials said that they hadn't heard of any impact from local governments or companies. The Department of Health and Environmental Control is urging local governments to address issues of contamination and educating residents on what material can be recycled.

South Dakota

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanSome material
  • State Action N/A

What we know

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources hadn't heard a lot from localities in November, but had heard that local governments and companies collecting lower-grade plastics through single stream were having difficulty finding markets for those materials and stockpiling as a result. There are domestic markets for mixed paper, so that was less of a concern. Are you feeling the effects, or have you heard of more going on in South Dakota? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Tennessee

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanLocal disposal bans
  • State Action Providing guidance available on request

What we know

Tennessee officials hadn't received any feedback from local governments or companies regarding the import restrictions in November. Like many states in the Southeast, Tennessee seems to be escaping the worst of the effects. Officials with the state Department of Environmental Quality said they were aware that local governments and companies are monitoring the situation.

Dickson County, which operates 10"convenience center" drop-off sites, raised concerns about its ability to recycle certain plastics in the near future. Though as of December, the county's solid waste division said the amount of valuable material still outweighed more challenging commodities, as reported by the Tennessean.

Texas

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanSome material
  • State Action N/A

What we know

In November, officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said the Chinese restrictions could be a good opportunity to develop local recycling markets. In December, the Austin-American Statesman reported that market effects were still relatively minor. Though Texas Disposal Systems has still taken this as an inspiration to increase research around plastic reprocessing technology that could be installed at its resource recovery park. Other companies, such as Balcones Resources, have previously said they plan to invest in new sorting technology.

In January, China's effects on commodity markets were a talking point as the Houston City Council finalized a new long-term recycling contract with FCC Environmental Services. In February, San Antonio proposed a $50 fee for residents putting dirty diapers in their recycling carts, as reported by Texas Public Radio. The city currently pays $1.2 million in fees from its processor because 103 pounds of diaper are being found on the lines each hour. While not explicitly linked to China, this is part of the overall contamination crackdown spurred by the country's import policies.

Utah

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action N/A

What we know

In November, Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality said it wasn't aware of any changes from local governments or recycling companies, and was unsure how the import restrictions would play out.

While not explicitly linked to China, Salt Lake City told residents in early January to stop putting plastic bags in their recycling carts because of contamination challenges. More recently, it was reported by KUTV and the Standard-Examiner that contamination has also been an issue for Weber County. Recycled Earth, a company in Ogden, has had challenges moving material recently due in part to those issues and is raising prices as a result.

Vermont

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action Running education campaigns

What we know

In November, Vermont officials had heard some concern about China’s new standards, but not seen direct effects or fielded questions from local governments. Officials said they were “cautiously watching” what the effects might be, and mostly focused on plastics #3-7 and mixed paper. Have you noticed local effects in Vermont? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Virginia

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Deferring to EPA

What we know

In November, an official from Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality told Waste Dive that it had only received one inquiry from a locality. The guidance from Virginia DEQ has been to keep up with information coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Though local operations such as TFC Recycling and Butler Paper Recycling have previously reported a significant reduction in market value, and an ongoing issue with "wishful recycling," as reported by The Virginian-Pilot.

Washington

What we know

According to the Washington Department of Ecology, China's policies are "beginning to create a major disruption" and companies have been "drastically slowing down their processing of recyclable materials in an attempt to reduce contamination." Because of these slower processing rates, the amount of material collected is exceeding processing capacity. "In the short term, some materials may not be able to be processed and will need to be disposed of."

The agency is still asking local governments to avoid making permanent changes yet and to “explore all options” in finding outlets for materials. Clean material, and proper recycling, are also key messages. Both the state and the Washington Refuse and Recycling Association have been pushing the message of "when in doubt, throw it out" as part of ongoing guidance.

During November and December, this began to affect smaller municipalities such as Walla Walla and College Place. Some have dropped mixed plastics from their programs, or considered raising rates to deal with higher processing costs. The Union-Bulletin has tracked this with multiple stories. In January, Yakima company Central Washington Recycling limited its drop-off service due to market issues, as reported by the Yakima Herald. Methow Recycling in Twisp doesn't expect to cut back service yet but is ramping up efforts to reduce contamination in the material it receives, as reported by Methow Valley News. While local contamination rates are only around 3% that is still too high for the material recovery facility where recyclables are processed in Spokane.

West Virginia

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Unknown

What we know

Efforts to contact West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection and Solid Waste Management Board were unsuccessful in November. The West Virginia Recyclers Association was unfamiliar with any details of China’s new import policies when reached for comment. Have you heard more? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Wisconsin

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanYes
  • State Action Providing information

What we know

Some local recycling operations, including Madison, the state capital, have limited what material they’re accepting. Plastics #3-7 can be baled and legally landfilled, something that at least one MRF had inquired about with state officials as of November. At that time, the state hadn't received requests to landfill banned materials. The agency was also encouraging communication with the public as markets shifted.

Wyoming

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Sharing webinars and information

What we know

In November, Wyoming officials said they hadn't heard many concerns, and most questions they had fielded were related to contamination. The Department of Environmental Quality is urging collectors and processors to communicate with their markets to see if any restrictions will be put in place to minimize deductions on returns in commodities markets. State officials have seen a push on the local level to continue education and focus on keeping commodity streams clean.

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If you have seen or heard anything related to China's import policies in your state, let us know by emailing [email protected] or [email protected].