I was talking on the phone with my mom last night and heard that this Friday would be the first day of Â the long-awaited blue box service in Calgary. Â Just in time to witness the collapse of the recycling market in China due to low commodity prices. Â 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.” Â Before October, 2008 or so, I could always fetch 1 jiao for a 600 mL water/coke bottle. Â Suddenly, I could only get 5 fen! Â (1 jiao is like a Chinese dime, 5 fen is like 5 cents). Â World financial crisis, he said!
What does that mean for your recycling programme in Europe or North America? Â 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. Â 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. Â North America, it’s time to clean up your act and consume more responsibly.