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What Chinese import policies mean for all 50 states

Recycling markets are volatile by nature and 2017 has been one of the more turbulent years in recent history.

Some say the worst may be over, or it was never that bad in the first place. Others say it’s still too soon to know whether China’s proposed import policies will have lasting effects. Earlier this month, Waste Dive checked in with all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) to assess the landscape.

We sent a short questionnaire to each environmental agency about whether they’d heard concerns, what guidance they were offering if so, 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 in recycling markets. We know that most states have disposal bans on at least some material and made sure to cross-check that with the Northeast Recycling Council’s comprehensive guide. We know the local factors of this situation are often complex.

For a state-by-state breakdown, click on the menu below or scroll through. For an overview of what we found out initially, you can read our companion feature story. Since then, we've continued talking to waste professionals from around the country, tracking the latest details on a newly proposed 0.5% contamination standard and updating this page as often as possible.

See information that doesn’t reflect your knowledge or would help expand ours? Send an email to [email protected].

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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 permission to not recycle the material 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, the state’s Department of Environmental Management isn’t aware of them. 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

The issue hasn’t become a statewide priority yet for Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation, 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 the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s recycling coordinator, businesses are “struggling some” with commodity prices and local governments have been asking questions, but material is still moving without notable disruption. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

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 flown under the radar compared its other West Coast neighbors, though some believe the situation may be worse than reported. Stories have been circulating for months about material piling up, especially in port cities such as Long Beach and Oakland, and CalRecycle has received questions about storage guidelines. More than 60% of the material collected in the state has traditionally been exported to China, and the agency has recognized it may need to explore alternatives to meet state recycling targets.

Northern agency ReThink Waste has considered dropping 3-7 plastics if markets truly disappear. The Ecology Center, which services Berkeley recently said that material movement alone is a low bar as prices for mixed plastics and newspaper are particularly low. Whereas large cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles remain confident about their prospects.

Most recently, San Jose's Environmental Services Department released a memo outlining how this shift could affect local recycling. The city has already seen exports slow due to increased inspection and has also considered reexamining recently negotiated contract terms, as reported by San Jose Inside. Though commodity revenue for 2017 is expected to still be better than 2016, the agency is less certain about next year. A status report is scheduled to the San Jose City Council in early 2018 and a county recycling commission has also budgeted $100,000 for consulting work related to waste reduction.

Colorado

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

What we know

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment hasn’t been getting questions about China’s import policies, but recyclers will need to talk to them if markets decline significantly. State regulations require MRFs to meet a 75% minimum material turnover rate. Waivers would be needed to change that and stockpile material. So far, none have been requested. At the local level, Boulder County has reported minimal market effects and is hopeful this may spur more interest in expanding domestic end markets. A recent article from The Durango Herald reported that Montezuma County has added staff to ensure the quality of its source-separated material. Durango has also stopped receiving payments from Friedman Recycling, which covered baling and shipping costs for export to the company's Albuquerque, NM MRF. The smaller municipality of Cortez recently announced it will no longer accept newspaper, and will now require residents to separate their #1 and #2 plastics, as reported by The Journal.

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 isn’t hearing 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 is well aware of the market situation, but so far none of the city’s local contractors have communicated issues about finding markets for material. In fact, D.C. is one of multiple cities to recently expand its recycling program.

Florida

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

What we know

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t received any questions or feedback about China’s import policies, but expects that if China does go through with the planned ban on mixed plastics and paper those materials may be dropped from local programs across the state’s 67 counties. 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. Officials in Polk County recently cited China as a reason for eliminating glass, magazines and certain plastics from the local residential recycling program after a contract switch this fall.

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 isn’t aware of them. 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 India, Malaysia and Vietnam instead. As of Dec. 11, West Hawaii Today reported that material was also going to Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines. If markets get saturated there, or become otherwise untenable, then Honolulu would likely send mixed paper and plastic to its local waste-to-energy facility. Necessary changes to local regulations and the state solid waste management plan are currently being explored to allow for that event.

Idaho

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

According to Idaho’s Department of Environmental Quality, 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 are also currently pursuing alternative markets. The agency has heard reports of some stockpiling in more rural areas as recycling programs wait to see what will happen internationally. Work is ongoing to reduce contamination, for both curbside and drop-off material.

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 isn’t aware of them. 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 isn’t aware of them. 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 isn’t aware of them. Though the agency doesn’t directly track recycling and said it wouldn’t necessarily be the first to hear. A recent 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 the state’s Department of Health and Environment, area recyclers have 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. Have you heard more? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

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 isn’t aware of them. 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 has not heard about any market effects. 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. 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 reports the market is currently “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.

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 haven’t been getting in touch with any questions so far. Have you heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Massachusetts

What we know

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has been fielding questions from businesses and municipalities, including informal inquiries about disposal ban waivers. In recent weeks the agency has been discussing the implications of China’s import policies at events, including the latest meeting of its Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and sharing guidance online. Contamination education has been a key part of that message, and was already a priority for the agency.

DEP recently released its “Recycling IQ Kit,” based on pilot studies conducted with The Recycling Partnership, and will be updating the kit with new results soon. Education grants will also be available for municipalities in 2018.

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 Vietnam, South Korea, India and Indonesia, but prices aren't as favorable, as reported by The Patriot Ledger.

Michigan

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

Aside from the price fluctuation, Michigan isn’t feeling major market effects. The state's Department of Environmental Quality had already been focusing on cleaning up the stream and is planning a forum to elevate the issue next month. Under 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 have also been spotted in the state. Even though material is moving, the DEQ is still interested in seeing expansion of domestic (or Canadian) markets expand for material such as cardboard and mixed plastics to decrease reliance on exporting.

Minnesota

  • Effect
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been hearing about price concerns from local brokers, and mentioned the possibility of stockpiling, but not received any disposal ban waivers yet. 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.

Mississippi

  • Effect
    Minimal
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t received many questions on China’s import policies, though is “concerned” about the situation and planned to discuss it at a recent 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 haven’t felt the full weight of China’s import policies, the state’s Department of Natural Resources said the news is “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.

More recently, effects have begun to appear in at least one part of the state. 2 Rivers Industries has notified residents in the small city of Hannibal that it will 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
    Noticeable
  • Disposal BanNo
  • State Action Ongoing communication

What we know

An official from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said there have been a couple instances of people wondering why plastics collection might be slowing down. Officials have noticed the market issues and said things may 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.

Nebraska

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

What we know

Officials with Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality said that they are not aware of any direct effects on recycling in the state coming from China’s import policies. 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 say the ban is “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 is 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. Like in other rural states the NRRA said drop-off programs are experiencing less difficulty because they have 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.

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 of notable market effects and was surprised by the limited response. At least one county intermediate processing facility - New Jersey’s term for a MRF - has 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 is feeling the market pinch, but with limited staffing at the state level, it has fallen to the New Mexico Recycling Coalition to stay on top of the issue. The organization has been hearing reports of price drops. Because much of the state is set up on a hub and spoke model, where only the hubs pay for processing, smaller or more rural municipalities are 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. Area recyclers have been finding luck with both domestic and Mexican end markets.

New York

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

What we know

An official from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said there has been some concern from municipalities, but no company or local government has 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.

North Carolina

What we know

This may not be having widespread effects in North Carolina, but reports have emerged of rigid plastic stockpiling in Orange County according to a recent article from The Daily Tar Heel. Per that story, this is because Sonoco Recycling's Raleigh MRF can'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.

North Dakota

  • EffectUnknown
  • Disposal BanSome materials
  • State Action Unkown

What we know

EEfforts to contact the North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association and state Department of Health were unsuccessful. 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 were unsuccessful. Other sources have reported no notable effects in the state. 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 state's Department of Environmental Quality. Are we missing something? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Oregon

What we know

Oregon is feeling the effects, and feeling them hard. Some recyclers have cut service for certain types of paper and plastic, mainly in the southern part of the state with less population density. As of Nov. 28, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) had granted disposal concurrences to 12 companies. DEQ emphasized that these requests were only granted after "all other options are exhausted" and accounted for about 2% of recyclable material in the state. Companies that had requests granted include Republic Services, multiple Waste Connections subsidiaries, Waste Pro, Rogue Disposal & Recycling, and Pioneer Recycling Services.

The state considers this a temporary measure, and wants to focus on quality control and contamination reduction. DEQ has created communication material to share with all interested parties and is hosting regular stakeholder meetings on the topic. The Oregon Resource Recovery Association has been working closely with DEQ, as well as national groups, and said markets remain particularly challenging for #3-7 plastics.

On Nov. 14, Dave Claugus, vice president of Pioneer Recycling, said that “things have changed for the better a little bit” because some import operations resumed but “December is a whole different question.” He doesn’t expect the new quality requirements to go away and has taken similar steps of slowing down the line and adding labor to address them.

A Nov. 21 story from Oregon Public Broadcasting included stories of companies such as Pendleton Sanitary Services and Rogue getting stuck with material that costs more to recycle than send to local landfills. Rogue's parking lot is reportedly filling up with bales of material. This has even been the case for companies such as Sanitary Disposal that rely more on domestic markets, as reported by the East Oregonian.

The Dalles Chronicle reported on Nov. 29 that Waste Connections subsidiaries Dalles Disposal and Hood River Garbage are asking residents to continue using their recycling carts as normal, even though glass is the only material currently being recovered. The company's district manager said the goal is to keep residents in the habit of recycling so they won't miss a beat when markets improve. Waste Connections is also planning to launch a local website soon with ongoing updates about the situation.

During the first week of December, Oregon continued to feel effects from China. The Coos County Board of Commissioners voted to increase collection rates, as reported by The World, and the Talent City Council took a similar step, as reported by the Mail Tribune. A local nonprofit that had partnered with Rogue to collect old newspapers in drop-off boxes for decades also announced plans to stop following price drops, as reported by News 10. While in a sign of more positive news, the Inlander reported that Denton Plastics hopes to open a new processing facility in the Portland area.

Pennsylvania

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

What we know

An official from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection told Waste Dive that it has not noticed any effects, nor has 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. Have you seen or heard otherwise? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Rhode Island

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

What we know

Rhode Island officials have not received any inquiries for guidance related to China’s new policies and they have not developed new guidance for those policies. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation's MRF does export some paper to China, but hasn'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 recent 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. State officials said that they have not 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 has not heard a lot from localities, but has heard that there have not been issues for governments and companies collecting only high-quality plastics. Those who are collecting lower-grade plastics through single stream, however, are having difficulty finding markets for those materials and are currently stockpiling. There are domestic markets for mixed paper, so that is 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 have not received any feedback from local governments or companies regarding the import restrictions. 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 are aware that local governments and companies are monitoring the situation. Have you seen more effects in Tennessee? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Texas

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

What we know

Texas officials said that the uncertainty surrounding future markets has caused commodity prices for recyclables to drop. 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.

Utah

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

What we know

Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality said it was not aware of any changes from local governments or recycling companies, and that the department was unsure how the import restrictions will play out. Have you seen noticeable effects in Utah recycling? Let us know by sending an email to [email protected].

Vermont

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

What we know

Vermont officials have heard some concern about China’s new standards, but have not seen direct effects or fielded questions from local governments. Officials said they are “cautiously watching” what the effects might be, and are mostly focused on plastics #3-7 and mixed paper. They are working on continuing education in the state to reinforce clean recycling habits. 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

An official from Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality told Waste Dive that it had only 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 noticed 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 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.

On Nov. 30, the Union-Bulletin reported that this has been having direct effects for small municipalities in rural Walla Walla County. The College Place City Council recently voted against suspending recycling service in favor of updating rates on a quarterly basis to reflect changing costs. The city of Walla Walla has said it will be following the results of this approach, especially in terms of how participation is affected. Both cities are serviced by Basin Disposal, with some material getting exported to Pioneer Recycling in Oregon. Nearby Milton-Freeman has already dropped mixed plastics from its program.

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. 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 has inquired about with state officials. So far, the state has not received requests to landfill banned materials and has spent time reminding local operators which material is required to be recycled. The agency is also encouraging communication with the public as the market shifts and prices may drop.

Wyoming

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

What we know

Wyoming officials said they have not heard many concerns, and most questions they have fielded have to do with reducing contamination in recycling streams. 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].