Prior to January 1, 2018, 30% of all recyclables worldwide were shipped to China. This number included over 50% of the world’s mixed paper and plastics. Since then, China has banned all importing of mixed paper and recycling. On March 1, 2018, China began enforcing a new .5% contamination limit on imported sorted recyclables. China plans on eliminating all imports of post-consumer recyclables by 2021.
As a result, the market values have decreased for recyclable material. The City of Sheboygan’s current contract with Waste Management expires on December 31, 2019. City employees collect solid waste and recyclable materials at over 18,000 households weekly. As a result of the economic markets, the fee to process the City of Sheboygan’s recyclables has increased from zero dollars a ton to $90 per ton.
The material is driven to the Waste Management Transfer Station in Sheboygan Falls. From there, Waste Management transfers the solid waste to their landfill in Whitelaw, Wisconsin and the recyclables to their Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Germantown, Wisconsin.
When the recyclable materials reach Germantown, they are processed by hand and by machinery. Currently, all of Sheboygan’s recyclable are collected in bags. Each bag of recyclables is then opened by hand.
All Wisconsin Material Recovery Facilities in the State of Wisconsin are banning processing bagged recyclables. If the City of Sheboygan continued to collect bagged recycling, there would have been $60 per ton added to the $90 tipping fee, or a contamination charge of over $180,000 annually.
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