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Western Railroad Discussion > WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash...


Date: 10/09/17 02:27
WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash...
Author: JPB

Interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal: "Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash, Wants No More"

Excerpts

...The U.S. enjoys a giant trade surplus in scrap, including household recycling, says the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. According to the trade group’s chief economist, Joe Pickard : “We’re like the Saudi Arabia of scrap.” Now there’s a heap of trouble confronting America’s separators of paper and plastic: The biggest buyer of the stuff doesn’t want it anymore. In July, China filed a notice with the World Trade Organization about its plans to limit the entry of “foreign waste.” Even before that, starting this spring, scrap shippers say, some Chinese customers hadn’t been able to renew their import licenses.

...

What most Americans don’t know is that after workers pick up and sort their recycling, a good deal travels halfway around the world. The U.S. exported $16.5 billion in scrap last year, the scrap institute says, more than any other country. Paper and plastic were about $3.9 billion of that. Over two-thirds of America’s wastepaper exports and more than 40% of its discarded-plastic exports ended up in China last year, the scrap institute says. Paper and plastic scrap exports to mainland China topped $2.2 billion—that’s more than exports to China of wheat, rice, corn, meat, dairy and vegetables combined, U.S. census data show. The scrap gains new life in China, and sometimes comes back to America reincarnated after factories break it down and use it as raw material to make new boxes, toys and other goods.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-is-no-1-in-exporting-trashwhat-if-no-one-wants-it-anymore-1507483011

Relevance: CSX containers back-haul recycled paper out of the Boston area for Asia.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/17 02:32 by JPB.



Date: 10/09/17 08:55
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: railstiesballast

My county operated recycling service recently stopped accepting plastic.
The manager said that the price paid for it had dropped to $10 per ton early this year and the last load to them cost $50 to dump there with the notice that they could not take any more plastic "at any price". Chinese market changes are likely behind what I thought was a local economy story.



Date: 10/09/17 09:38
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: callum_out

Plastic is a bitch to recycle from the reprocess end, about the only thing you can make is junk bottles
and low end furniture though Trexx does make decking from used garment bags.

Out



Date: 10/09/17 09:50
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: jst3751

callum_out Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Plastic is a bitch to recycle from the reprocess
> end, about the only thing you can make is junk
> bottles
> and low end furniture though Trexx does make
> decking from used garment bags.
>
> Out

Fortunately, those in the plastic recycling business know more than you and know there is a lot more use than just that.

The problem is simple: supply and demand. With millions of pounds of virgin plastic being produced annually, what do you think is going to happen?

Unless burned, (not environmentally friendly) plastic is the the largest commodity on earth that is being created but not consumed. That means once it is created, it here to stay. Rubber is probably a close second.

The only real way to reverse that is for a mass world wide switch to use of recycled plastic into pavement and building material use.

Or severely cut down on the products requiring so much virgin plastic.

Banning plastic single use shopping bags is a start. But I think all those single serving plastic bottles for water and juice and every other liquid drink total a lot more that single use plastic shopping bags.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/17 09:54 by jst3751.



Date: 10/09/17 10:01
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: jcaestecker

According to some of my sources in the paper and fiber world, the Chinese were fed up with bales of waste newsprint and waste cardboard that routinely contained 7-10% contaminants. All that stuff had to be removed from the bales and burned or trucked to landfills. With air pollution being a big problem in the urban areas over there, the government finally stepped in and made the draconian demand that importers cut the contaminant level to 0.3%. Unless recyclers here in North America spend a lot of money adding personnel and/or sorting equipment, the paper mills in China will not be allowed to buy much of the waste fiber we collect here. Translation: much of what we throw into our recycle containers and put out on trash day will go to local landfills here in the U.S.

-John



Date: 10/09/17 10:05
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: goneon66

it sure would be great if re-cycled plastic (especially the bags) could be used as roads....

66



Date: 10/09/17 19:40
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: spwolfmtn

This is probably a dumb question from someone who goes out of his way to recycle, can the plastic from bottles and milk jugs be recycled into new bottles and milk jugs? I guess I always assumed (naively) that you could melt that plastic down and make new containers, kinda like what is done with aluminum and glass...



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/09/17 19:48 by spwolfmtn.



Date: 10/09/17 21:01
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: jst3751

spwolfmtn Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This is probably a dumb question from someone who
> goes out of his way to recycle, can the plastic
> from bottles and milk jugs be recycled into new
> bottles and milk jugs? I guess I always assumed
> (naively) that you could melt that plastic down
> and make new containers, kinda like what is done
> with aluminum and glass...

From a technical standpoint, yes. From a actual use, no. I do not know if it is an actual rule or policy, but no one is going to create a container for food or medical use from non-virgin material. The reason is there is no way to "guarantee" that the recycled reprossed plastic is NOT contaminate (for food-medical use) free.



Date: 10/10/17 20:21
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: spwolfmtn

jst3751 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> spwolfmtn Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > This is probably a dumb question from someone
> who
> > goes out of his way to recycle, can the plastic
> > from bottles and milk jugs be recycled into new
> > bottles and milk jugs? I guess I always assumed
> > (naively) that you could melt that plastic down
> > and make new containers, kinda like what is
> done
> > with aluminum and glass...
>
> From a technical standpoint, yes. From a actual
> use, no. I do not know if it is an actual rule or
> policy, but no one is going to create a container
> for food or medical use from non-virgin material.
> The reason is there is no way to "guarantee" that
> the recycled reprossed plastic is NOT contaminate
> (for food-medical use) free.

Thank you for your reply. One other item about what you say about contamination (which I was wondering about); didn't we for years recycle our soda pop bottles? Weren't those used again for soda containers? I guess I always assumed that the heat needed to melt the recycled plastic down to make new containers would kill most if not all contaminants?



Date: 10/11/17 00:55
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: Margaret_SP_fan

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I had
read some years ago that the biggest problem
in recycling post-consumer plastics is that
everything in a batch must be of the exact
same type of plastic, or the batch cannot be
used for much of anything. For instance, it
all has to have a "4" in that little [hard-to-
see] triangle.

I had not realized that food or biohazards
would also contaminate a batch, as I, too,
had thought that all that plastic was going
to be melted down, and the germs would be
killed by the heat.

China has apparently imposed a ban, effective
Jan. 1, 2018, on importing 24 types of scrap
for recycling:

http://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/plastic-scrap-china-import-ban-2018-mixed-paper/

I believe that "Recycling Today" is a trade publication,
so the article is reporting fact, not speculation.

This ban will cause a lot of problems, as the
infrastructure to keep this scrap out of lnndfills
is much, much too small right now to handle all this
stuff. Forget about trying to make money from selling
this stuff -- a federal government agency should really
be doing this, as no one can make a profit from selling
any of the soon-to-be-banned scrap items.

There are no easy and quick solutions to this problem,
but I know this country is more than able to find ways
to prevent some of this huge stream of post-consumer
paper and plastics from even being generated, and to
find ways to deal well with what does enterthe waste stream.



Date: 10/11/17 06:39
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: Lackawanna484

Most (all?) European Union countries have rules mandating re-use of steel and plastics from cars, newspapers, cans and bottles, etc. Large packaging (e.g., tiny thumb drives with huge packaging) is discouraged, and items imported into the EU have to have some % of recycled from the EU content.

BMW says that up to 95% of its i3 model is composed of recycled materials.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/car-technology/videos/a32531/heres-how-bmw-recycles-its-cars/



Date: 10/11/17 10:16
Re: WSJ: Oh, Scrap: China, the Biggest Buyer of America’s Trash
Author: jst3751

spwolfmtn Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> jst3751 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > spwolfmtn Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > This is probably a dumb question from someone
> > who
> > > goes out of his way to recycle, can the
> plastic
> > > from bottles and milk jugs be recycled into
> new
> > > bottles and milk jugs? I guess I always
> assumed
> > > (naively) that you could melt that plastic
> down
> > > and make new containers, kinda like what is
> > done
> > > with aluminum and glass...
> >
> > From a technical standpoint, yes. From a actual
> > use, no. I do not know if it is an actual rule
> or
> > policy, but no one is going to create a
> container
> > for food or medical use from non-virgin
> material.
> > The reason is there is no way to "guarantee"
> that
> > the recycled reprossed plastic is NOT
> contaminate
> > (for food-medical use) free.
>
> Thank you for your reply. One other item about
> what you say about contamination (which I was
> wondering about); didn't we for years recycle our
> soda pop bottles? Weren't those used again for
> soda containers? I guess I always assumed that
> the heat needed to melt the recycled plastic down
> to make new containers would kill most if not all
> contaminants?

Yes, the heat that is used for plastic kills off MOST biological items, but not physical items. The heat to melt glass is much higher and that heat will burn off all biologoical and paper and ink and glue and such. But the temprature required for that would also damage plastic, and as such plastic is processed at a lower temprature.

And yes, for most uses, the types of plastic must be kept seperate.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/11/17 10:18 by jst3751.



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