Changes in laws regarding pollution in China are having an impact on recycling in the United States, including Kansas.

This year a law went into effect in China restricting certain kinds of waste coming into the country as the government has implemented strict quality and contamination standards. That means tons of recycling that had been headed from the U.S and other countries to China, now has no where to go. 

“I’ve got 70,000 pounds of recyclables here now,” said Mike Hasting of PRo Kansas Recycling, a non-profit organization. “I called another recycling place and asked if they could take a truck load, and they said they had 50 of their own truck loads sitting in the lot.” 

Hastings says this issue impacts certain kinds of plastics — the ones with the numbers 3-7 printed on them, including clam shell packages for sandwiches. Because they’re made with different combinations of chemicals and materials, they’re not as easily recyclable. 

“We just don’t have anywhere to send it,” explained Hastings.

Hastings says water and pop bottles, milk jugs, detergent bottles and plastic bags are easier to recycle and don’t have to be shipped overseas.

The change in China’s law has impacted other companies, including Waste Management.

“China as well as other end-users of collected recyclable material have implemented stringent quality standards,” said Paul Howe, spokesperson for Waste Management, in a statement to KSN. “The nationwide contamination average for materials collected is approximately 25 percent. Meaning, for every 2,000 pounds collected, 500 pounds is contamination. The new standard is .5 percent contamination rate, or 10 pounds of contamination.”

In Valley Center, where Waste Management provides services, the city is considering the company’s request of a $1.63 increase in monthly recycling services. 

“I’ve gotten several calls from concerned citizens,” said Kristine Polian, Assistant City Administrator in Valley Center. “We’ve heard from several people that they fill up their recycle bin much sooner than their trash bin.” 

Waste Management says they’re working to educate consumers nationwide on proper recycling to cut down on contamination. 

 “Production costs for recyclers have increased as a result of slowing sorting lines down by as much as 20%, in order to ensure clean bales of material that meet the new acceptable standards. Additional labor and the associated labor costs have increased as more sorters have been added to the lines to improve quality standards,” said Howe in a statement.  

Valley Center City Council will vote on the monthly recycling fee in August.

Meanwhile, Hastings said he wants the public to know that many recyclables are still acceptable. 

Click here to find PRo Kansas Recycling’s list of acceptable recyclables.

Click here to find Waste Connection’s guidelines for recycling.