How China’s ban on plastic, paper waste impacts Seattle recycling

Mar 28, 2019, 5:53 AM
seattle recycling...
Plastic lines the beach in Tauranga, New Zealand in 2011. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)
(AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)

You’ve likely read that China has stopped accepting America’s recycled plastic and paper, and so the question becomes: Is recycling dead?

Not in Seattle.

“Recycling is not dead. It’s well good and alive, but it’s definitely a different day,” outreach planner for Seattle Public Utilities Becca Fong told Seattle’s Morning News. “The material is going to domestic markets; it really depends on the commodity. The two things that were really impacted by China’s ban were mixed paper and mixed plastic.”

Fong says mixed paper is a combination of all forms of paper smashed together, and China used to take all of it. Now to make it a more available commodity, sorting facilities are separating out magazines from office paper and cardboard, resulting in cleaner individual streams. Plastics are being further separated as well.

RELATED: How conservatives are environmentalists in their own way

According to National Geographic, China previously took in 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste imports, but announced last year it could accept no more due to local environmental concern. The announcement also was a reminder that much of the plastic we put in the bin was actually being sent across the ocean because it was cheaper to do so.

As a result of the China ban, some of the local plastics are being sent to a secondary sorting facility in British Columbia, which will further sort out the piles of plastic and turn it into pellets.

“Then it’s easier to sell that raw material, because those pellets are easier to sell to somebody who’s going to make new plastic pop bottles or various items,” Fong said.

RELATED: Snohomish City Council passes plastic bag ban

With the additional sorting of individual plastic and paper, is this new system cost-efficient and environmentally sound?

“Absolutely it is. The thing about plastics is that they’re made from petroleum, so that’s pumped out of the ground, and then it’s transported and brought to manufacturing facilities to make new things,” she said. “When you recycle plastic instead, you shortcut that process, so the petroleum doesn’t have to be pulled from the ground.”

“So even though there is more sorting and there’s more transportation, it is less energy-intensive to use a recycled product.”

Dave Ross on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

KIRO Radio staff

Mayfield: Far more than meets the eye when it comes to how we use emojis

We have words, yet sometimes they aren’t enough. That's where emojis come in, giving us a diverse way to express ourselves to loved ones.
11 hours ago
Holiday cheer, grief...
KIRO Radio staff

Mayfield: What if we shared our grief with our holiday cheer this year?

Its December and holiday cheer is everywhere, but not for all of us. So, what if this season we shared the cheer and the grief?
1 day ago
rain, meteorologist...
MyNorthwest Staff

‘Fingerprints of warming planet’ amid Seattle area’s year of record-breaking weather

When meteorologist Ted Buehner last joined KIRO Radio, the temperature was reaching triple digits. Five months later, there has been record rainfall.
1 day ago
World AIDS Day...
KIRO Radio staff

Mayfield: More hope now than ever for cure to decades-long epidemic

Decades after HIV and AIDS first surfaced, there's more hope than ever for an eventual cure within the next decade.
2 days ago
Tacoma police, South King County...
MyNorthwest Staff

South King County mayors demand action from state to end rash of violence

Multiple mayors in South King County are banding together to combat a violent trend after seven people were shot in four days. 
3 days ago
KIRO Radio staff

Mayfield: Focusing less on money and more on giving

What if we focused on giving more every day? And what if -- beyond money -- we gave more love, wisdom, and leadership?
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
How China’s ban on plastic, paper waste impacts Seattle recycling