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Michigan’s recycling costs spike thanks to shift in China’s trade policies

recycle cone
Ben Simo

From Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids, communities all across Michigan are paying more to recycle their trash. 

That’s thanks to a change in China’s stance on accepting recycling products from the U.S. 
Dar Baas, the director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, joined Stateside to talk to us about the financial impact this Chinese policy is having on operations there.

The price that recyclers are able to get for post-consumer goods has plummeted over the past year and a half after China started turning away recycling products from the U.S. 

"A year ago, July, China was receiving 200,000 tons of mixed paper a month. And I would say that today, they're taking virtually none," said Baas.

The paper and plastic that China is rejecting is now flooding the domestic market, where most of Kent County's recyclables are sold, driving the price down to nothing. The net result has been a loss of about $1.5 million for the department. 

Listen above to hear how the West Coast's backup of paper and plastic is hurting Michigan's recyclers, and why China has stopped accepting much of the recycled material from the U.S. 

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