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Utah recycling facilities filling fast with China ban

Utah recycling officials say China has basically closed its door on accepting recyclables from the United States - and it's taking a toll on facilities. (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) -- Utah recycling officials say China has basically closed its door on accepting recyclables from the United States - and it's taking a toll on facilities.

“I look at the landfills here in Ogden, and they are filling up. (The) recyclables are hills now; they used to be lowlands,” said Washington Terrace resident Rue Hellstrom.

Hellstrom dropped off recyclables at a cardboard/newspaper bin hoping to provide relief from the landfills. But with new bans and restrictions in place from China, recycling facilities are filling up fast, too.

Recycled Earth in Ogden has been accepting the residential recycling for Weber County. Its Operations Manager David Rawson said dirty recyclables are causing major problems.

“China has been taking a lot of our garbage, that we call as recyclables in the past, and I think they are just saying we want a better product,” he said.

Contamination of recyclables can cause problems in processing. Contamination happens when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclables items, when recyclable items are placed in the wrong recycling bins or recyclables aren't cleaned before disposal.

One contaminated item can ruin an entire load, Rawson said. He added such contaminants he's witnessed include car engines, clothes, and even dirty diapers.

“We all need to own it, we all need to be better at it,” he said, and that includes cleaning the recyclables.

“We don't have a way to clean out containers so it's really important that the containers are clean when they are brought to the recycling yard,” he said.

Rawson added that plastic bags are a "big no-no," yet they are disposed of in recycling all the time.

Washington Terrace Mayor Mark Allen also serves as the chairman for the Weber County Solid Waste Committee. He said charging for recycling isn't popular and not something governing bodies favor, but there may not be a choice.

He said while his city is financially solvent through the fiscal year, it could change in the future if residents don't change their habits because China wants under 1% contamination and current rates are anywhere from 15% to 40%,

“China will open its doors, but they are requiring that cleaner loads come into their ports,” he said. “Everybody has got to participate clean.”

At least one Washington Terrace resident is onboard.

“If we don't recycle the next generation is going to have a hard time finding places to put it,” Hellstrom said.


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