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End the duopoly

U.S. Recycling Industry Is Struggling To Figure Out A Future Without China

The U.S. used to send a lot of its plastic waste to China to get recycled. But last year, China put the kibosh on imports of the world’s waste. The policy, called National Sword, freaked out people in the U.S. — a huge market for plastic waste had just dried up.

Where was it all going to go now?

In March, executives from big companies that make or package everything from water to toothpaste in plastic met in Washington, D.C. Recyclers and the people who collect and sort trash were there too. It was the whole chain that makes up the plastic pipeline. It was a time of reckoning.

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John Caturano of Nestlé Waters North America, which makes bottled water, said plastic is getting a bad reputation. “The water bottle has in some ways become the mink coat or the pack of cigarettes. It’s socially not very acceptable to the young folks, and that scares me,” he said during a panel called Life After National Sword.

Sunil Bagaria, who runs recycling company GDB International, took his colleagues to task. “Forever, we have depended on shipping our scrap overseas,” he bemoaned. “Let’s stop that.” European countries, he added, “are recycling 35% to 40% [of their plastic waste]. The U.S. only recycles 10%. How tragic is that?” […]

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