Last month, China announced that by the end of 2017, the nation will no longer accept items they call dirty or hazardous waste.
That seems like an announcement that would not impact the Inland Northwest, however many recycling companies right here in the United States could see their cost of business go up.
Earthworks Recycling in Spokane manages tons of recyclables, which often get sold to larger companies that can ship them overseas.
China’s announcement is mainly about things that get mixed in with the recyclables, like food scraps or plastic.
“"It seems kind of like a right turn. Because they need product, and we've got product,” explained Jim Schrock, who has owned Earthworks for 37 years. “They're just trying to control what's going in.”
And that right turn may mean changes to the bottom line, not just for Schrock’s business but also the people who contribute to it.
"It would be worth less to us so we would either pay less or charge customers more to take it, and then as a result we're gonna get less in and have less work to do here,” Schrock said.
According to Bloomberg News, over 180 million tons of recyclables were traded globally in 2015. It's those kind of imports that have fueled China's growth.
But now because of growing environmental concerns, China has switched gears on what they are willing to accept.
"It's mostly the low grade metals like you got your cord that your computer plugs in,” Schrock said. “It's got that little box and there's not much copper in there but there is some copper. But if it gets sent to China, they don't want someone burning that off and having all the pollution and ash just to get ounces of copper."
Schrock said he has seen the recycling industry change over the years, but this latest move worries him.
"That's gonna affect us in the long run if we're getting less for the money and it's costing us more to process,” he said. “We're still going strong on it but, things change.”
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