ROYAL OAK, Mich. – The market for recyclables has been depressed for more than a year, primarily because China has stopped purchasing them.
There are piles of plastic, glass and paper piling up with nowhere to go.
“What you’re seeing is twofold here. There’s a glut in the market because there’s no place to take it,” said Joe Munem, from GFL Environmental.
The other is issue is contamination. How we recycle is the problem. People tend to throw a lot in those bins because they hope it ends up being recycled instead of going to a landfill.
“Dirty diapers can’t be recycled. Your pizza box with remnants of cheese can’t be recycled,” Munem said.
Ditto for bowling balls and containers like laundry detergent that haven’t been rinsed out. Toss trash in those recycling bins, and you’ve just contaminated the whole lot and likely sent it all to a landfill.
“This isn’t a Westland issue or a Michigan issue, it’s a global issue,” said Westland Mayor Bill Wild.
The city just sent all its residents a letter explaining the economic realities of recycling. Westland was paying $18 per ton to recycle and that price has risen to $80 per ton.
For now, some recyclable material is heading to a landfill while communities try to come up with a better, more cost-effective option.
China isn’t just not buying recyclable material from the U.S.; it isn’t buying from anywhere. Expect to see big increases in the price you pay to be green.