California Counties Ask Governor for Help with Recycling Industry Crisis

California counties recycling
(Photo: A sanitation mural in Santa Monica, California. Credit: Joey Zanotti, Flickr Creative Commons)

An association representing California counties sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking his administration to establish a statewide commission on recycling markets in the wake of Chinese trade import policies restricting recyclable material imports.

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) letter noted that the changes in China’s trade import policies, called National Sword, will close Chinese and Asian markets to California’s scrap imports completely by 2020.

“Significant market disruptions for recyclable materials have a direct impact on California’s local governments and our ability to meet state-mandated recycling goals,” the letter says. “Since China’s change in policy, materials are piling up in local waste facilities across state with no place to go. This has caused slowdowns in waste processing of other materials, significant public health risks, and the increased potential for fines and penalties.”

California counties are asking Newsom to establish a statewide commission that would address these recycling market challenges. CSAC requested that the commission have state, local, and industry representatives who can recommend market solutions while emphasizing the need to keep materials out of landfills.

“The Commission should examine potential solutions including, the development of international and domestic markets, updated compliance standards in this new economic environment, ways to increase source reduction, and any other means that will alleviate this growing public health and environmental crisis,” the letter said.

CSAC sent a separate letter to all county boards of supervisors and public works directors in California urging them to add their support for a new commission.

“Other state agencies have considered taking more direct steps to expand market development in the wake of commodity disruptions,” Waste Dive’s Bryan M. Gold pointed out. “Most recently, Washington’s Department of Ecology backed new legislation to create a market incubator that could do similar work with existing entities in Pennsylvania and Colorado.”

Across the United States, recycling costs have skyrocketed and sorting standards became incredibly tight since China set limitations on waste imports. The Tribune-Review recently reported that refuse collection rates in some Southwestern Pennsylvania municipalities have risen 20 – 60% while customers in other parts of the country have seen rate increases as high as 400%.

The 4th Annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference takes place May 13 – 15, 2019 in Denver. Learn more here.

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