SeaTac in scramble to sustain recycling services as China restricts imports
By Gwen Davis
The City of SeaTac — along with many cities across the US — is scrambling to sustain the affordability of its recycling program, amidst China deciding to halt the imports of American recyclables earlier this year.
Every day, nearly 4,000 shipping containers of recyclables are exported from the US to China. But on Jan. 1, China started enforcing its new "National Sword" policy, which bans 24 types of solid waste, including some plastics and mixed papers, and sets a tougher standard for contamination levels.
Last July, China declared to the World Trade Organization that it will no longer act as the world's trash dump. China currently consumes 55 percent of the world's scrap paper and is a major destination for other recyclables, as originally reported by PRI.
However, this has led to a dizzying effort for city governments all over the country, who now need to figure out how to affordably provide recycling services for their residents.
Currently, the City of SeaTac is feeling the squeeze. SeaTac has a contract in place with a solid-waste company called Recology, which has been doing a "great" job in providing low-cost recycling services to its residents, according to multiple SeaTac city councilmembers. But the company recently approached the city, saying that because of the National Sword policy, it's losing money and needs to renegotiate the contract.
On Monday afternoon, a SeaTac city council committee met with Recology to discuss how to move forward.
"Since SeaTac already has a contract in place to guarantee low rates for our residents, we are now considering the possibility to amend that or provide a temporary surcharge until the situation with recycling improves," said SeaTac City Councilmember Peter Kwon.
While Recology is a private company, SeaTac is inclined to help it succeed. Committee members said it would be neither cost-effective nor fair to their residents to let the company fail. It also wouldn't make sense to begin a lengthy, cumbersome and un-guaranteed search for a new contractor.
"We don’t want want the companies to go out of businesses because then we can’t recycle at all," Kwon said. "So, rather than drive the businesses into the ground or go under, we want to try to help them continue to provide recycling services and get over the difficulty in the meanwhile."