The Problem: China’s Import Ban on Recyclables Adversely Affecting Domestic Recyclers
Since the 1980s China had imported more than half the world’s annual recyclables, including (according to Greenpeace) an average of almost 9 million metric tons of plastic scrap per year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastic waste comprises about 12% of all municipal solid waste in the USA. In 2017, facing pressure to clean up its air, water, and land, China implemented a complete ban on the import of plastic recyclables from anywhere in the world. While this was a great turn of events for Chinese citizens and their environment, this market shift caught many recycling facilities here in the USA off guard.
One of these recycling facilities (we cannot share their name due to confidentiality) is a large waste services provider and paper/plastic recycler with multiple locations throughout the USA. Two of their facilities in particular were hit especially hard and fast when the ban took effect. Just two months after the ban took effect, these two facilities had amassed well over 1,000,000 pounds of plastic scrap inventory that to this point had only gone export. Additionally they were out of room and due to contracts they had in place to receive paper, “plastic” and waste, they couldn’t just stop taking in the plastics.
They quickly realized they lacked the plastics expertise internally to locate new markets for this growing backlog of inventory and through a referral reached out to iSustain for help.
The Solution: iSustain’s Creativity and Expertise
By implementing a combination of creative solutions like breaking bales to be re-sorted and regraded, to educating our supplier on the degrees of allowable contamination, and other factors that go into determining prices and markets for their material, iSustain was able to increase the material value and marketability. Within 3 weeks of implementing these solutions, the entire backlog had been picked up, recycled and sold for a value. Needless to say, our customer was very happy and iSustain has gone on to exclusively market all plastics for all of their facilities throughout the USA.
At iSustain, we work hard to keep thousands of tons per month of plastic materials moving and out of landfills for our clients.