Changes coming to Tacoma’s recycling program

Photo pictures a truck laden with recycling in Shanghai. According to NPR, the U.S. exports about 1/3 of its recycling, and until recently,nearly half has gone to China. — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tacoma residents were alerted in February to changes in the recycling program that could affect how much material the city can recycle and could possibly eliminate curbside recycling.

Although a seemingly local issue, these changes are actually the result of international regulations. Tacoma sells their recycling to China, and China recently changed their requirements for what can and can’t be recycled there.

“Materials that do not meet the new requirements are rejected. There is low to no tolerance for dirty or improperly sorted items. More than ever, it’s important to emphasize quality over quantity and the need for clean recyclables. In the recent past, materials were marketed at a profit. Now as a result of the new policies, the City of Tacoma is facing increased costs to maintain its recycling program,” the Tacoma City website reads.

According to the Washington Post, this is a nationwide problem. Many cities in America send their recyclables to China, and it is easier for big cities to handle this recent problem than small cities, as they can absorb extra costs of recyclable items. Smaller cities in America are having to limit what they can recycle in order to keep up with the regulations.

It was in 2018 that China “banned the import of most paper and plastic for recycling,” according to the Tacoma City website. The material that Tacoma would usually send to China was considered contamination as a result of this. This radically drove up the cost of the program and now Tacoma city council, with the assistance of citizens, is trying to come up with a new solution.

According to the City of Tacoma website, in December of 2018 the city started to reach out to the community to ask for help and feedback in how this issue should be fixed. The City Council will be making a decision soon, based on input from citizens, as to how this should be handled. It is expected that changes to the program will be announced in June of 2019.

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