New Export Rules On Trash To Affect Phoenix Metro Areas

Published: Sunday, December 3, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 1:56pm

China has proposed certain waste import restrictions on the United States. Dec. 15 is the deadline for China to receive filed responses. The Asian nation is the world’s largest importer of waste products and over 50 percent of U.S. trash and recyclables are exported to China now.

David Biderman is executive director and CEO of SWANA, a professional association for the waste sector. He said larger American cities, like Phoenix, have to do a better job with trash at the local level.

“They’re sorting the material more carefully and removing the stuff like hoses and dirty diapers and plastic bags that aren’t recyclable. And by slowing the line down, you develop a purer product, one with less contamination," he said.

He said Northwestern cities like Seattle and Portland have robust recycling systems in place and will be less impacted by the changes to China’s new import rules, while Southwestern cities, which rely heavily on outsourcing trash service, will be hit harder.

“So, there is some disparity in the Southwest and the Northwest part of the United States.  In places like Oregon and Washington, there’s a very strong recycling culture and ethos and they have very high recycling rates and they are very close to ports where material can then be shipped for export overseas. And so, there’s a tremendous amount of recyclables generated in places like Seattle and Portland, compared to Phoenix, even though Phoenix’s population is substantially larger than either of those cities," said Biderman.
 
"However, Phoenix does export or ship much of the recyclables that are collected, not just in the city of Phoenix, but in the metropolitan area. Much of that material, particularly the paper and the plastic, is sent to ports in California, where it’s exported to Asian markets because many countries in Asia are very eager to import our waste and process it and turn it into feed stock for manufacturing.”

In July, China notified the World Trade Organization it would be imposing restrictions on the import of waste materials. That moratorium begins in March. Vietnam, Indonesia and India are seeing increased imports of trash as major U.S. cities look for alternate export locations.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated for clarity.

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