China’s recycling market losing steam – Calgary begins blue box service

I was talking on the phone with my mom last night and heard that this Friday would be the first day of  the long-awaited blue box service in Calgary.  Just in time to witness the collapse of the recycling market in China due to low commodity prices.  It’s a bit of a tragedy, as all that recyclable material might just end up in the landfill afterall…

I was wondering what was going on late last year when the price of plastic bottles decreased at my local recycling “depot.”  Before October, 2008 or so, I could always fetch 1 jiao for a 600 mL water/coke bottle.  Suddenly, I could only get 5 fen!  (1 jiao is like a Chinese dime, 5 fen is like 5 cents).  World financial crisis, he said!

What does that mean for your recycling programme in Europe or North America?  It means that as much as you dust up, and tidily sort your trash into your blue box, your municipality might not have anywhere to sell your recyclables.  After all, China makes up nearly 70% of the global recyclables market, and if they aren’t buying here, well — that means nobody is buying your junk!

Sadly, it means this junk is going to start piling up, either near your city in North America, in a landfill, or perhaps at the bottom of the sea as ships potentially dump their worthless trash overboard.

Turns out that recycling isn’t much of a solution after all, when times get tough.  North America, it’s time to clean up your act and consume more responsibly.

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