For decades the world relied on China as the main buyer of its recyclables. But heavily contaminated recycling created vast environmental and public health concerns for China and other importing countries. China cracked down on this contamination by restricting imports of most recyclables, which caused global repercussions. The fallout from these restrictions created a recycling crisis – one of the most detrimental issues facing solid waste management today.
As bales of sorted material pile up, local governments and solid waste companies have faced rising costs. When no markets can be found, much of the materials collected for recycling is landfilled. Washington's recycling system has been especially hurt, as more than 60 percent of our recycled material was shipped to China.
We are meeting the recycling crisis head on, with both short- and long-term solutions focused on two key issues:
- Reducing recycling contamination
- Finding new buyers for Washington's recyclables
We also continue to work with our partners to develop domestic markets, educate consumers, and identify other improvements to Washington’s recycling system.
The Recycling Development Center is one of Washington’s responses to the recycling crisis. It will help Washington maintain its leadership in recycling by guiding the development of a sustainable recycling system into the future.