Chinese ban halts local plastics recycling

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A decision made earlier this year by the world’s most populous country has affected Northwestern Montana, causing Lincoln County to no longer be able to accept recyclable plastics.

“China banned all import of foreign waste and used to take 90 percent of the our recyclable plastic,” states a Dec. 24 post to the Lincoln County Health Department Facebook page notifying residents that, as a result, the Lincoln County Landfill will no longer accept plastics “until a new market is found.”

Until the announcement, the Lincoln County Solid Waste and Recycling department, which the Health Department oversees, collected consumer recyclables from several drop-off locations throughout Libby, Troy and Eureka and transported them to Kootenai Disposal.

“Kootenai Disposal notified me on Dec. 20 that they no longer have an outlet for any plastics and can no longer accept them,” said Kathi Hooper, Health Department director, via email. “(Kootenai Disposal’s Jerry Snell) told me he was notified on Dec. 19.”

Representatives from China told the World Trade Center in July that starting Jan. 1, 2018, the country — the world’s largest processor of recyclable materials — would no longer accept imports of 24 kinds of waste for use in recycling. The decision reportedly reflects both a desire to clean up China’s environment and an expanding amount of domestically produced recyclable materials.

Though the announcement was made in July, the nearing of the ban’s start date has prompted a flurry of news reports in recent weeks. At least two news organizations — NPR and The Irish Times — have used the word “chaos” in headlines to describe how the pending ban is affecting countries worldwide.

The local implementation of the ban set off a discussion on the “Lincoln County, MT News and Opinion” Facebook page.

“It is such a bummer,” wrote Shannon Myslicki, who learned about the ban after seeing a sign at Kootenai Disposal stating it was no longer accepting plastic. “Every time I throw it (away now) I cringe.”

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