China gets tough on US recyclables. How one Maine town is fighting back.

Beijing’s 2018 crackdown on recyclables was widely decried as a disaster for global recycling. Facing rising recycling costs, cities like Sanford, Maine, have found innovative ways to respond.

Residents stormed into the office … They demanded to know why the city’s recycling service was suddenly refusing to pick up things they’d always collected – like plastic grocery bags.

In short, the answer was that China – the No. 1 destination for US recyclables – had cracked down on imports of “recycling” that was laced with trash, and had even stopped taking certain materials altogether. That had driven up the cost of business for US recycling facilities, which in turn started charging municipalities for banned items mixed in with recycling. Sanford, seeking to avoid $100,000 in unexpected fees, abruptly ramped up enforcement of its recycling rules.

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