PORT TOWNSEND — China’s announcement that next year it will decline to accept some shipments of mixed plastics and paper recyclables from the United States will not affect programs on the North Olympic Peninsula — at least not yet, officials said.
The U.S., Canada and much of Europe have relied on Chinese buyers to buy recycled mixed paper and plastics, and for the past 20 years, more than 550,000 tons of plastics are imported to China from western countries annually, according to a press release from Jefferson County Public Works.
The mixed paper and plastics are sold to Chinese recycling companies, which process the paper and plastic into raw materials for sale.
The Chinese government announced earlier this month that it would crack down on some shipments starting in January because of high rates of contamination. That could mean that more U.S. recyclables will end up in landfills unless other buyers are found.
The announcement caused some recycling programs in the U.S. to cut back.
However, this is not the case so far on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“In Jefferson County, we are pleased to report that our recycling program is collecting all our designated recyclable materials at this time and residents can continue to recycle as usual,” said Tom Boatman, Jefferson County solid waste manager.
Clallam County programs also will continue with business as usual.
“We’re not seeing any changes in the program right now,” said Tom McCabe, the solid waste superintendent at the Regional Transfer Station in Port Angeles.
McCabe reported that while there have been no changes to programs in Clallam County so far, that could change once the ban is in place.
“I can’t say that in the long term there won’t be issues,” McCabe said.
But Boatman said, “State officials are reporting that most recycled plastics markets in the long run should not be affected by the China ban.”
Much of the recycling sold to China has low contamination rates, a Jefferson County official said.
“Cardboard, glass and aluminum are not affected, and mixed paper markets appear to be stable for Jefferson County only because our mixed paper has unusually low contamination,” said Alysa Russell, the manager of Skookum Contracting in Jefferson County.
News reports have said operations are slowing close by, such as in Portland, Ore.
Jefferson and Clallam County recycling programs accept mixed paper including magazines, phone books and cereal boxes; plastics including yogurt tubs, rigid plant pots and hard plastic buckets; aluminum; and clear, brown and green glass bottles and jars.
Blue glass, light bulbs, plastic caps, plastic bags and deli containers are not accepted.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]