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China’s Impact on Recycling Worsens

By Christina Weiler, Colgate University, Founder of UCan Nonprofit Organization; Christopher Galantino, Cornell University, President Cornell Sustainability Consultants; Rob Watson, Chief Science Officer, Eco-Hub LLC. Founder & Co-chair SWEEP Standard

Earlier this month, we published a piece based on Waste Dive’s excellent ongoing investigation of the effects of China’s material import ban on America’s recycling infrastructure. The analysis was performed on a state-by-state basis and categorized impacted recycling infrastructure as either “Minimal,” “Noticeable,” or “Heavy.” Minimal indicated no major issues in program scope or performance, Noticeable indicated slower facility output and recycling program cuts under consideration or being implemented, and Heavy indicated shrunken or vanished markets, significantly cut back programs, and recyclables being landfilled instead of being processed for reuse.

Because the market is changing rapidly and we’d like to update this piece often, here are the latest highlights for the month of July (as of 7/20).

Since June 2018, the conditions of 5 states have declined while only 2 have improved. Nevada recovered from Heavy to Noticeable impact and South Dakota recovered from Noticeable to Minimal. However, the states of Arizona, Washington D.C., Georgia, Illinois, and Michigan have all climbed from Minimal to Noticeable impact while New York has increased from Noticeable to High impact. Table 1 provides a visual representation of this data.

All together, July 2018 observes 78% of total states identifying as either Noticeable or Heavy, representing 88.2% of the US GDP and 89% of the US population. Compared to June 2018, where 68% of total states identified as Noticeable or Heavy, representing 75% of the nation’s GDP and 72% of the nation’s population, these numbers are significant.

We will continue to track and discuss Waste Dive’s analysis as it is published. Stay tuned for a series, of which this is the second edition.

Table 1: States and Current Impact Category (7/20)

StateImpact CategoryStatus
AlabamaM
AlaskaH
ArizonaN
ArkansasM
CaliforniaH
ColoradoN
ConnecticutN
DelawareN
District of ColumbiaN
FloridaN
GeorgiaN
HawaiiH
IdahoH
IllinoisN
IndianaN
IowaN
KansasN
KentuckyM
LouisianaM
MaineN
MarylandN
MassachusettsH
MichiganN
MinnesotaN
MississippiM
MissouriN
MontanaH
NebraskaN
NevadaN
New HampshireN
New JerseyN
New MexicoH
New YorkH
North CarolinaH
North DakotaM
OhioM
OklahomaM
OregonH
PennsylvaniaN
Rhode IslandN
South CarolinaN
South DakotaM
TennesseeM
TexasN
UtahN
VermontN
VirginiaN
WashingtonH
West VirginiaM
WisconsinN
WyomingN

 

Table 2 – Waste Dive Report: Impact of China Import Ban on Recycling in US States

DateMinimal Impact StatesNoticeable Impact StatesHeavy Impact States% of US GDP Impacted States% of US population Impacted States
Nov 2017341242826
Jan 20182816644.341.4
Feb 20182715845.743.3
Mar 201825151051.549.1
Apr 201825161059.658.3
Jun 201816241075.272
Jul 201811281188.289

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