The Wall Street Journal reported that the industry for recycled products is collapsing. Until late last year, China was the largest importer of U.S. recyclables. At the beginning of 2018, in a decision that many attribute to trade tensions between the U.S. and China, China imposed more stringent quality standards on imports of recycled material and ceased importing U.S. mixed paper and mixed plastic of any quality until June 4, 2018. As a result of the harsher standards, the prices of scrap paper and plastic have plummeted. While other countries, such as India and Vietnam, have imported some of the waste that would have been sent to China, there remain large amounts of unsold recycled material.
As the industry is reevaluating its practices given the loss of its largest market, certain recyclables are being sent to landfills and municipalities across the U.S. are charging more from homeowners for the collection of recyclables. Parts of Europe were similarly affected by the new quality standards and have large amounts of unsold recycled material. The European Federation of Bottled Waters announced on Tuesday, however, new plans to increase the amount of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic commonly used in bottles and textiles, in water bottles by 2025. The members of the industry interviewed by the WSJ opined that increased opportunities for consumption in the U.S. market and a shift in domestic recycling practices will be necessary moving forward.