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Amanda Davidson
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 Chinese Restrictions on Imports Creates Recycling Industry Crisis

YORK, Pa. (4/18/2018) – Penn Waste is just one of many recycling companies in the US feeling the pain after China implemented drastic changes to imported recyclable material. In January, China  imposed radical changes to  the levels of contamination they allow in recyclable material  and implemented a plan to reduce imported recyclable material while increasing their domestic recovery capabilities.

“The recycling industry was basically turned upside down overnight,” said Amanda Davidson, Director of Marketing for Penn Waste.”  

Previously, China allowed 5% contamination, or 92 lbs of trash, in a 1,850 lb bale of recycled paper. Beginning in 2018, China changed those restrictions to a 0.5% contamination rate, or 9lbs of trash in a 1,850 lb bale of recycled paper. This is an unrealistic number that recycling companies cannot meet.

“Single-stream recycling makes it easy for customers to recycle but we’ve seen a dramatic increase in contamination since switching to this method in 2008,” said Davidson. “People just throw items in the recycle bin whether its recyclable or not. There are significant consequences  if trash is mixed in with the recycling.”

Those consequences are currently having an impact on the entire US recycling industry. Since China is the largest buyer of recyclable material, there are limited domestic outlets to get rid of it.

Penn Waste continues to develop short-term and long-term solutions to manage the unpredictable recycling markets, rising contamination rates and other rising business costs.

“At the end of the day, this is not just a Penn Waste issue. It is a global issue,” said Davidson. “Recycling is required in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There is value in recycling but there is also a cost to provide this service. The recycling industry as a whole is revising our pricing model and moving from a commodity-based pricing model to a fee for service pricing model.”

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About Penn Waste

Founded in 2000, Penn Waste is South Central PA’s premier choice for residential and commercial waste removal and recycling services. A locally owned and operated company, Penn Waste is committed to improving the communities we serve throughout the counties of York, Lancaster, Adams, Dauphin, Cumberland and Perry. For more information, visit