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What Chinese import policies mean for all 50 states

UPDATED: April 18, 2018
  • In Colorado, Durango may raise monthly rates to offset new price increases from Friedman Recycling.
  • The MIRA MRF in Connecticut is stockpiling mixed paper and OCC.
  • Ada County, Idaho, is asking residents for advice. Other cities are struggling with mixed paper.
  • In Maine, a rural drop-off site has stopped accepting all plastics except #2.
  • In New Jersey The Association of New Jersey Recyclers provides a market update.
  • More communities in Oregon are limiting materials and raising rates. NRC hosted a market workshop recently.
  • In Utah, the North Ogden City Council could scrap curbside service.
  • Rates are on the rise in Washington, though new plastics capacity possible in Canada.
  • A city in Wyoming is stockpiling mixed plastics, but so far no program changes.

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.

In March, the Idaho Statesman reported that Phoenix has found a way around the mixed paper ban by producing a "special news mix" that is sold to a private recycler in China. These bales are especially dry because of the local climate and hold up well on the overseas journey.

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.

Recently, the city of Texarkana announced it would be suspending all plastics service at the local drop-off center due in part to China's effects on commodity markets. Residents will still have recycling access for plastics at a monthly "Green Texarkana" drive or via curbside collection from Waste Management, as reported by the Texarkana Gazette.

California

What we know

California has been in the news less than some of its West Coast neighbors, though CalRecycle and others sources indicate that local recyclers are feeling the 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. 

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 Sacramento Bee reported that county officials would be doubling down on education and contamination enforcement. New market realities have changed the recycling budget from about $1.2 million in annual revenue to $1.1 million in expenses. 

In March, SFGate reported that Recology is staging more plastic bales than usual at its San Francisco MRF and still working to get material out of the 4-5% contamination range. The Tahoe Daily Tribune reported that while South Tahoe Refuse has seen the expected drop in commodity revenues it has still been able to ship material. Salinas Valley Recycles and Tri-Cities Disposal & Recycling Service reported many of the usual challenges at a recent Gonzales City Council meeting, according to King City Rustler.

In April, Bakersfield.com reported that the eponymous city is proposing a 3.5% rate increase for the upcoming fiscal year due in part to new market restrictions. Local companies, such as Metropolitan Recycling, have reported stockpiling in the past. Because it's currently costing the city around $25 per ton to move recyclable materials that could result in a $300,000 annual expense if rates don't shift.

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.

Toward the end of 2017, Boulder County reported minimal market effects and was hopeful this could spur more interest in expanding domestic end markets. Recently, MRF operator Eco-Cycle confirmed that it is still having fewer difficulties than other areas due in part to newly installed optical sorters for plastic and an existing policy of slower line speeds to ensure quality.

Based on multiple stories, including a March series from Aspen Public Radio, Denver has also been affected but is still faring pretty well. Quality control has become even more important for the local MRF operated by Waste Management in recent months, to the point that it's now operating at 60% capacity. Average contamination rates for material coming into the facility from surrounding areas still averages about 20%. 

The Durango Herald recently reported that the city may add a new $2.69 monthly surcharge for residents to offset current costs. The city's processor, Friedman Recycling, raised prices by $25 per ton in March so the city could be facing a $180,000 budget shortage within a year without further action.

Connecticut

What we know

Some Connecticut MRFs do send mixed paper to China, and like other parts of the Northeast there have been reports of scattered stockpiling, but the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has maintained a relative sense of calm about the issue so far.

The agency remains in contact with local operators and will want to hear a plurality of concerns before considering any recycling waivers. A new universal education campaign called "What’s In What’s Out," which had been in the works prior to China's announcement, debuted on Nov. 15 to help reduce contamination. In March, Closed Loop Fund announced a new partnership with DEEP to distribute at least $5 million in infrastructure investment during 2018. This could potentially help MRFs upgrade sorting technology or be used in other capacities.

Based on reports from at least one regional operator this type of assistance is much-needed. The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, which owns a MRF operated by Republic Services, has encountered significant challenges in recent months. Glass had already been a challenge, with much of it being shipped nearly 500 miles to Pennsylvania, and MIRA is now in the same spot as many others when it comes to mixed plastics and mixed paper. With the exception of #5 plastics, MIRA is sending other low-grade plastics that have no market with residue to its waste-to-energy facility. The MRF had been sitting on more than 1,000 bales of ONP and mixed paper during the first week of April, due to negative pricing, as well as hundreds more of OCC. 

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
    Noticeable
  • 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 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. That bill was passed in March.

30A Recycle temporarily suspended collection for residents in Walton and Bay counties in April, according to Northwest Florida Daily News. In a letter on its website the company said this was because the Walton County Recycling Center had stopped accepting plastic. The county's solid waste manager pushed back on that in the article, saying that his facility was still taking plastic but stockpiling about 50 bales because Waste Management had stopped buying it.

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 have traditionally gone to the West Coast, where they may be exported. 

Residents in the Twin Falls area have lost access to recycling for 3-7 plastics, following decisions by PSI Environmental and Magic Valley Recycling. The Twin Falls City Council voted March 5 to keep the recycling program for other materials by raising rates starting in April. This included the caveat that recycling will only occur if it costs less than $100 per ton. 

Republic Services has also stopped accepting 3-7 plastics in Southwest Idaho, particularly Ada County. This includes Boise, Meridian and Garden City, among others. Those three cities have now begun participating in the Hefty EnergyBag program to send material to Renewology in Utah for fuel conversion.

Though 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. A final decision on how to proceed there is still pending, but the issue has also come up for other local governments.

Ada County, which services households in unincorporated areas, is asking residents for feedback. Potential choices include suspending service for a rate decrease, dropping mixed paper for a small increase, or maintaining the current program for a higher increase. The cities of Middleton and Nampa are also faced with a similar decision, with plans to discuss at upcoming meetings this month according to the Idaho Press-Tribune.

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 had become harder to move over the past year. Like for other states along the East Coast, the idling of QRS Recycling in Maryland was a setback on that front. 

MRF operators such as ecomaine, Casella and Coastal Recycling have all reported issues moving material in recent months, 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 Tri-County Solid Waste transfer station, which provides drop-off service for multiple rural communities, recently announced it will essentially only be recycling #2 plastics. All others are considered unprofitable and will go to the ecomaine waste-to-energy facility.

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 31 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. E.L. Harvey & Sons, based in Westborough, had received local and national media attention for the large amount of material that has piled up on its property this winter. Both companies told Waste Dive in March that they've begun to move more material, but at negative values. Though a recent collapse in the local glass market has only increased financial pressure.

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. 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. Residents that are part of the Martha's Vineyard solid waste district will be seeing a rate increase earlier than expected. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette recently reported that Raw Material Recovery Corp. is stockpiling bales of plastic in its warehouse.

At the annual MassRecycle conference on March 23, DEP officials and industry representatives provided the latest updates on this situation and said they don't expect it to improve in the near-term. Reducing contamination, educating residents and likely raising contract costs were all key talking points.

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

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control 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.”

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

In March, MinnPost reported that the state was still faring better than most, though conditions weren't ideal. Eureka Recycling said that because it traditionally used local markets material was moving but at lower prices. Vida Recycling Corporation said it was currently sitting on 300 tons of mixed paper because domestic markets were flooded after China's ban.

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 had begun hearing about market issues and projected they could get worse because winter weather inhibits recycling activity in the state. Those predictions proved correct come January, as reported by the Daily Inter Lake.

As of March, the DEQ told KPAX that contamination remains a big challenge because processing costs are already higher due to the state's landlocked position. When combined with low commodity prices this has made it harder for companies to operate recycling programs in the region.

In April, the Missoulian reported that Republic Services and Garden City Recycling - the main recyclers for Missoula and Lake County - are no longer taking #3-7 plastics. The same goes for Glacier National Park, whereas Yellowstone is still taking all plastics. Republic's local general manager said plastics are currently moving at a loss. Butte has experienced its own challenges, as reported by the Montana Standard, because nonprofit AWARE Recycling recently announced plans to close. State budget cuts and commodity markets are the main factor. This could eventually affect curbside options for local residents that are currently available for a fee via McGree Trucking.

Most recently, the Missoulian reported that Pacific Steel and Recycling will stop accepting all plastics as of May 7. The company had already stopped taking mixed plastics, but has now gone even further because profits have turned negative due in part to ongoing contamination issues.

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

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. The NRRA has said drop-off programs are faring slightly better, but the state is still feeling market effects. The association has highlighted its ongoing contract and market guidance services for communities during this time.

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.

Though DES doesn't track markets, the Department of Administrative Services does and is actively engaged in selling commodities from government office locations. Prices hadn't been favorable for these efforts even before China's import announcements hit last summer, but a recently implemented baler pilot for fiber could help yield better returns.

In March, Seacoast Online reported that Exeter and other municipalities serviced by Waste Management have been informed of tighter quality standards and are budgeting for lower revenues from recycling. Collection crews have also been leaving behind heavily contaminated carts with notices in some instances.

New Jersey

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Association guidance

What we know

While New Jersey's challenges haven't been making many headlines, the Association of New Jersey Recyclers reports that local MRF operators are experiencing similar conditions to their counterparts throughout the country.

This has resulted in the usual slowing of lines, addition of labor and build-up of bales. Tough market conditions have made it more difficult to move all types of material and quality is a top priority. Based on all of this, processing costs are going to increase - if they haven't already - as contracts come up for renewal.

Though that isn't currently expected to lead to changes in curbside programs. Doing so would require a more complex regulatory amendment at the county level due to state recycling requirements. The main focus going forward will be on reducing contamination at the curb, keeping plastic bags out of the bins and finding ways to continue the push for domestic market development.

New Mexico

What we know

New Mexico has been feeling effects for months. According to the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, many municipalities stopped receiving rebates last fall. Though 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. Those with source-separated drop-off programs were also seen as more insulated.

That has begun to change, especially in larger cities with single-stream collection. As of March, the situation reached a boiling point for many of these cities with sole area processor Friedman Recycling asking to renegotiate contract terms at its local MRFs. According to Friedman, the combination of slower line speeds, extra labor (more than 50 new staff) and negative commodity pricing has left them with no choice. 

This has also left smaller municipalities with less leverage than their larger counterparts. For example, Albuquerque's terms are expected to influence Santa Fe's options at the local Friedman MRF. The same goes for whatever happens in El Paso, TX affecting Las Cruces. This has prompted some frustration as El Paso's contamination rate is more than double that of Las Cruces. The South Central Solid Waste Authority, which serves Las Cruces, has taken extra steps to remain transparent with its residents through editorials and public service announcements about proper sorting.

The SCSWA board voted for a rate increase on March 26, according to the Las Cruces Sun News, that is expected to generate an additional $40,000 per month. The catch is that this increase will be dependent on El Paso renegotiating its own contract terms with Friedman, which has yet to happen.

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.

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.

The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency has begun enforcing tighter contamination standards as a result, with financial penalties for haulers. In a March Poughkeepsie Journal editorial, Royal Carting Service COO Evelyn Constantino emphasized the need for Dutchess County residents to produce cleaner material and said some should expect "a small increase in the cost of recyclables collection."

North Carolina

What we know

North Carolina has felt the effects and the state's Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service has been very engaged on the topic. 

Sonoco Recycling's Raleigh MRF is one of the region's main facilities and has popped up in the news multiple times recently with details about slower processing speeds and greater contamination scrutiny. In February, the Port City Daily reported that New Hanover County has been stockpiling cardboard for months. There were concerns about the material degrading due to weather, but Sonoco had been asking the county to hold off on selling it for a lower price in hopes of markets improving. 

Pink Trash told its local customers that recycling costs are now going up substantially because the company doesn't have a contract with Sonoco. The regional recycler informed them of a new cost structure in a letter, citing a drop in mixed paper pricing that made previous rates untenable. In March, the company told Waste Dive that education would be a key part of improving material quality.

In March, The News & Observer toured Sonoco's Raleigh facility and reported that the city is no longer receiving rebates for its material. In April, the Jacksonville Daily News reported that local governments in Onslow County have been approached for rate increases based on higher processing costs for Sonoco and are in various stages of approval.

North Dakota

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

What we know

Efforts to contact the North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association and state Department of Health were unsuccessful in November.

The Grand Forks Herald wrote in March that while local companies were noticing the usual effects they were more insulated. Waste Management reported finding new Asian markets for its material. MinnKota Recycling, the intermediate processor which handles material for the Fargo-Moorhead area, reported minimal issues because customers already pay a recycling fee and the company has existing domestic markets. Fargo has seen an uptick in contamination since switching to single-stream last summer, but is keeping it in check through truck cameras and notices.

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. In March, The Athens News reported that the nonprofit Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers was struggling due to market conditions and may change its contract terms to factor in new pricing.

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 April 10, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had granted 21 disposal concurrences. 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 8,305 tons has been disposed as of Feb. 28.

DEQ's broader priority is to move toward a sustainable materials management system, though that doesn't help solve 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.

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 Refuse & Recycling 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. A growing number of companies have adopted this list though some are still adapting.

Rogue Disposal - which services numerous western communities such as Medford, Jackson County, Central Point, Jacksonville and Phoenix - is sending the majority of its material to landfills at the moment, as reported by the Mail Tribune. The company is currently running test loads to see whether residents have responded to these new guidelines and if contamination has gone down accordingly. In that same article, the DEQ identified western Oregon as one of the hardest hit areas.

The cities of Ashland and Talent aren't seeing any changes because Recology takes their material to California. The company has identified new markets domestically, as well as in India, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Though one issue has been people trying to bring recyclables into these two municipalities and the company said it could begin asking for proof of residence soon.

Material lists have also been limited in Marion and Jackson counties. As of mid-April, KGW8 reported that this information still hadn't been widely publicized by companies and residents were unaware of the change. Recent stories indicate changes are also underway in Lincoln and Douglas counties. Milton-Freewater's curbside program has been canceled due to market pressures and other factors. Eugene and Springfield recently adjusted to the more limited material list.

Rate increases have also become common in various parts of the state. Portland - which so far hasn't made any changes to its program - could soon approve a $3 per month increase for households effective May 1, as reported by OPB. Increases have already been approved in GreshamKlamath County for Waste Management, and the Albany area for Republic Services. Other companies are expected to seek similar increases if they haven't already.

Looking toward the future, Portland recently hosted the National Recycling Coalition's first market development workshop. As reported by the Portland Tribune, attendees said new markets for plastic had begun to open up in Southeast Asia and regional infrastructure investment was possible. That could include Chinese investment in mixed plastics processing capability, the reopening of a former paper mill or other approaches.

Pennsylvania

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.

In late February, the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center released new guidance and perspective on what National Sword means for the state. This included many of the usual talking points on reducing contamination, ensuring bale quality and being aware of market dynamics. It also included perspective from Chinese representatives for the state's Office of International Business Development about how this fits into broader national trends and political discussions.

Rhode Island

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • 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. Though producing high-quality streams in the face of increasing contamination was still an issue, according to a November Providence Journal article.

It has since been reported by ecoRI News that the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation's MRF is struggling to find markets for mixed paper now that it can no longer export to China. Unlike in 2008, RIRRC doesn't have space to store the material and is currently paying International Forest Products to move it. Plastics have been less affected because of existing markets in the U.S. and Canada. Though the closure of a key regional bottling plant in Massachusetts has also disrupted options for glass recycling in the state.

South Carolina

What we know

Like other states in the Southeast, South Carolina has been less affected by China's import restrictions. In November, state officials said that they hadn't heard of any impact from local governments or companies. At the time, the Department of Health and Environmental Control was urging local governments to address issues of contamination and educating residents on what material can be recycled.

In March, The Post and Courier reported that the Horry County Solid Waste Authority's material recovery facility was experiencing some of the usual challenges with market dips and contamination. Bales of plastic were mentioned as particularly harder to move lately. Another factor is that the facility's residual rate increased from 14% to 34% since it began accepting material from Charleston County. That arrangement will continue until a new MRF opens in North Charleston next year.

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
    Noticeable
  • 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. While not explicitly linked to China, this is part of the overall contamination crackdown spurred by the country's import policies.

As of March, El Paso became one of the most affected municipalities in Texas. Friedman Recycling is asking for a $40 per ton processing cost increase due to ongoing market challenges. So far, the El Paso City Council has resisted changing terms in a contract that runs through 2030. Though the city is ramping up education and enforcement efforts. Whatever the city ends up negotiating is also expected to influence options for nearby Las Cruces, NM.

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.

Recycled Earth, a company in Ogden, has had challenges moving material recently due in part to contamination rates approaching 50%. In April, the Standard-Examiner reported that the North Ogden City Council will consider whether it's still cost-effective to continue curbside recycling collection or try and renegotiate rates with Republic Services for a different approach.

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

Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has advised that local governments keep up with information coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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. TFC recently told the Richmond Free Press that it's having trouble meeting new quality standards because 15-20% of the residential material it receives is contaminated. Though the company is still finding markets for fiber in Vietnam, South Korea, India and domestically.

Recently, van der Linde Recycling announced plans to close its mixed waste processing operation in the Zion Crossroads area, due in part to low commodity prices. The MRF has been taken over by County Waste and will essentially be used as a transfer station to send material to another facility in Chester, as reported by The Daily Progress. This has had ripple effects in Albemarle County and as far away as Harrisonburg, where the city was temporarily landfilling material

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. In January, Yakima company Central Washington Recycling limited its drop-off service due to market issues, as reported by the Yakima Herald. Waitsburg decided to discontinue drop-off recycling for everything but cardboard in February. College Place recently decided to temporarily suspend all curbside recycling service, as reported by the Union-Bulletin.

Ecology hosted its first statewide recycling market call on March 28, during which it became apparent that effects are worse than previously reported. Numerous counties and municipalities reported that service providers were raising rates or requesting permission to dispose of mixed paper. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission told Waste Dive it is now allowing companies to request rate changes more frequently than in the past and expects all 53 regulated haulers to make a request if they haven't already. In April, KIRO 7 reported that residents throughout the Puget Sound area should be expecting potential rate increases if they haven't come already.

This issue gained additional prominence in King County after The Seattle Times reported that Republic Services had been asking for temporary mixed paper disposal permission. Bellevue has granted approval through April 20, with the Bellevue Reporter writing that more than half of the material is contaminated. Other municipalities have done the same, but so far Seattle has not. Recently, KING5 also reported that Seattle-based drop-off company The Recycling Depot would be shutting a location due to commodity prices.

Officials from Washington also participated in a market development workshop hosted by the National Recycling Coalition in early April. The potential for new processing capacity at Merlin Plastics in B.C., Canada was mentioned as one sign of hope for the state's current challenges.

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 aside from dealing with contamination. At the time, the Department of Environmental Quality was urging collectors and processors to communicate with their markets to see if any restrictions would be put in place.

As of April, the city of Sheridan reported that it was currently stockpiling mixed plastics with the hope that it could move them when markets improve. Though so far both the city and service provider County Trash have been telling residents to continue business as usual.

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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].