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Recycling program of cities affected by foreign decision
• Glut of recyclables in U.S. without Chinese market
Ceres city seal

The decision of China to not recycle “foreign garbage” is causing cities like Ceres to rethink its own recycling programs.

In years past, a lot of the recyclable materials from the American garbage stream have been shipped to China for processing. However, since Jan. 1 China has adopted strict standards for its purchase of recycled products. The Asian nation no longer accepts mixed paper or mixed plastics and is closely inspecting U.S. shipments of cardboard and other items it does take, to ensure those items meet strict new standards for cleanliness. The lack of a foreign buyer means that there is a reduced market and gluts of recycled materials that are instead going to landfills.

Councilwoman Linda Ryno asked City Manager Toby Wells how Ceres is being impacted.

“This is something that is affecting all of California,” said Wells.

He said there is a “large disconnect between state government and their focus on reducing solid waste and increasing recycling without any connectivity to the real world.”

The state’s goal of stepping up recycling, said Wells, is totally dependent on other markets like China and without it has come to “nearly a standstill.”

“Pretty much every waste hauler in California is wrestling with what to do with those products,” said Wells. “This is an ongoing conversation between ourselves and Bertolotti and the state. We get nastygrams from the state of how we’re not meeting their goals while at the same time the haulers don’t have any place to dispose of these plastics or recyclables.”

He said Ceres is not ready to make drastic changes yet.

“We don’t see good solutions.”