St. John‘s recycling not in danger of ending up in landfill from new China regulations

Changes coming in the new year that limit the types of plastic and paper China accepts for recycling won‘t have much of an impact on St. John‘s, says mayor Danny Breen.

In July, China — the world‘s biggest importer of recycled materials — notified the World Trade Organization that it would stop accepting shipments of waste plastic, paper and other materials by Jan. 1, 2018 due to environmental concerns.

Reached on Saturday, Breen said the change shouldn‘t have much of an effect on the amount of recycling going to China each year from St. John‘s. 

He said that‘s because the city has never collected materials included in the ban like plastic shopping bags and glass through curbside recycling.

And that means that workers at the materials recycling facility at Robin Hood Bay in St. John‘s won‘t have to alter their process.

“We have less contamination and we have a higher quality of recycling materials, so we don‘t anticipate this change by China will have an impact,” he said. 

Recycling currently sold to China

After recycling gets sorted at Robin Hood Bay, it gets put on the market, and most of it ends up in China, said Breen. 

He doesn‘t anticipate an impact in the near future when it comes to selling this material, but does think there may be more competition once other cities update their recycling facilities to meet China‘s new standards.

“It may be that China‘s not buying as much materials, and then there‘d be more competition on the market to have those materials taken by China.”

But for now at least, Breen isn‘t worried that China will stop collecting recyclables and the city will be forced to find a new home for the materials.

“Not at this point, but it‘s certainly it‘s something we‘ll be keeping an eye on,” he said. 

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