Remember four years ago when the Chinese “Green Fence” was put up? It was a virtual wall constructed to prevent mixed and contaminated recyclable materials from entering China. For many years, China has been the world’s biggest buyer of recyclable materials – no other country comes close. This “fence” radically changed what we were able to recycle in our community. Without a place to send mixed ‘rigid’ #6 and #7 plastic for recycling, CARTM had to stop collecting it.
Fast forward to February 2017, when China announced “The National Sword.” The government no longer wants to import used containers. Although CARTM customers rigorously sort their recycling to prevent contamination, we are affected again. After October 1, CARTM can no longer accept the following packaging: #1 clamshells, #4 and #5 plastic, and plastic caps and lids. Other materials may be affected in the future.
Traditionally conscious consumers have trained themselves to look for containers with the #4 or #5 labels on packaging of yogurt, sour cream, crumbled cheeses, salsas and prepackaged grab and go food items in. These buying decisions were often made knowing that the packaging could be recycled. Not anymore. Until a new market opens, these items must be landfilled.
Tillamook County’s mobile recycling trailer, which travels around the county collecting recycling, will also stop accepting these items.
“Because we can’t guarantee that these materials have a way to be recycled, we can’t in good conscience continue to collect them,” said CARTM’s executive director Karen Reddick-Yurka. “We will stockpile the clamshells, #4s, #5s and caps we that come in this month, hoping for another market to open up. Unfortunately, after October 1 they will have go to the landfill and that is the opposite of our mission. It breaks my heart.”
This latest blow to the recycling world means that consumers have an opportunity to make their voices heard by contacting the companies whose products they enjoy and regularly purchase.
“It is time to put pressure on the manufacturers to take responsibility for the packaging they create,” said Karen. “If we don’t, they will continue to use materials that are not recyclable. This could be a moment in time where we could affect change in a big way.”
“In addition, consumers can go back to buying whole produce rather than bagged or packaged produce to minimize waste. Of course we regret the inconvenience this may cause to CARTM users, and we look forward to the discussions the “National Sword” will stimulate.”
CARTM will continue to accept plastics that do have a recyclable value. Those are: #2 frosty milk jugs, #1 bottles, #2 colored bottles and 10 cent deposit soda, water and beer bottles. CARTM also accepts a vast array of paper, glass and metal. For the full list visit cartm.org.
CARTM, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is located at 36994 Necarney City Road in Manzanita. CARTM’s recycling, trash transfer station and The Refindery, a creative re-use store, are open Thursday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information call 503-368-7764.