Recycling in the United States is broken.
For years, we relied heavily on recycling operations in China to take our waste. But that came to an end in 2018, when Beijing barred the import of recycling materials. The result is a waste crisis that has caused at least dozens of municipalities to cancel curbside recycling programs, with many more implementing partial cuts. Huge amounts of recyclables are now going to landfills.
“When the biggest export market is no longer willing to accept your material, there’s an imbalance between supply and demand,” said David Biderman, the executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America. “That’s just Economics 101.”
So, how can we fix the system?
Experts say that we would need to implement changes across the board. Legislators may need to pass laws requiring manufacturers to use more recyclable materials, companies would need to build much-needed recycling infrastructure and people would need to recycle properly.