The elephant on the recycling sort line is the fact that communities switched from curb-sort recycling to single stream. Curb-sort recycling, the method whereby all recyclables are in segregated compartments on the truck, had a contamination rate below 3%. When garbage haulers began collecting recyclables using single steam, the method of mixing all recyclables in a single compartment truck, the contamination rate rose to double digits. Mixed-up and contaminated recyclables were shipped to countries that had little or no child-labor and environmental laws. Because private companies are usually involved, there is now very little transparency regarding what happens to your recyclables once they leave the curb.
Are your recyclables being sold, stockpiled, incinerated, or landfilled? Below are two must-read articles about the latest fallout from China’s new ban on contaminated recyclables from the U.S.