How China's ban on certain recyclable goods will impact Arizona

Posted at 10:31 PM, May 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-31 01:31:16-04

When people throw their plastic goods in the recycling bin, they might feel like they are doing their part to help the environment. But China's recent ban on certain recyclable goods is going to change what many cities will do with its waste moving forward. 

China is the world's largest buyer of recyclable goods but is making drastic changes to what it will accept. 

"Everybody in the U.S. and even Europe is affected by these changes," said City of Phoenix Public Works Director Joe Giudice. "But the market for recycling is always ebbing and flowing and changing."

Giudice says China has become the place many cities depend on. 

But now, in an effort to cut down on pollution, China is putting a ban on certain plastics. 

And it's having a ripple effect, forcing Flagstaff to start its own ban June 1. 

When it comes to plastic, Flagstaff will now only accept bottles, jugs, and jars. And it will likely be sending once recyclable goods to the landfill. 

Phoenix doesn't plan a ban and instead hopes to build a manufacturing facility to turn the waste into new plastic material or maybe even fuel. 

"We're going to be going out for a request for a proposal in the next couple of weeks, seeking a manufacturer to build a facility to take those plastics," Giudice said. 

Giudice says cities have to be ready to pivot. It might take a few years, but Phoenix having its own way to get rid of plastic could be positive in the long run. 

"It could possibly serve regionally, so Flagstaff might have a future solution to its problem," Giudice said. "And other Valley cities, and of course Phoenix."

Money is a key factor in the recycling business. Many cities were getting paid by selling its recyclables to China. But now they might have to pay to get rid of them. 

Every Arizona city is different and it will likely take time to figure out which solution works best.