Municipal recycling – Links

The Electronic Products Recycling Association operates regulated recycling programs in nine provinces across Canada, including Ontario:

There are no standard criteria for all other recyclables across the municipalities and counties of Ontario:


WHY RECYCLING IS CHANGING – A Message from WASTE MANAGEMENT, Brockville, March 2018

Residential recycling is at a crossroads. For the past 20 years, China’s demand for recycled commodities allowed cities all over the world to offer “unlimited” recycling programs. Anyone could offer the public a laundry list of items they could put into recycling carts that would be shipped off to China.

Encouraged by China’s appetite, cities added more and more items to recycling programs and encouraged the public to recycle “everything.” Not only that, to lower costs, US cities changed collection systems to “single stream” programs – an increased convenience for the public, allowing them to put all recyclable items into one cart. These “recyclable” commodities were then sorted at processing facilities and shipped to China for recycling.

Everything changed in 2018 when China banned nearly all mixed residential recycled commodities from entering their country.

What happened?

First it turns out not everything is recyclable, and never was. Some items the public is encouraged to recycle are not recyclable and actually contaminate other items. Mixing everything together in one cart for “convenient” collection and recycling actually decreases the recyclability of many items. The Chinese government decided that our recycling programs produced material that was not only difficult to actually recycle but left them with a significant amount of nonrecyclable items to deal with. In their opinion, our single-stream recycling programs ended up shipping them what they contend was our “garbage.”

The Chinese government began nationwide programs last year labeled “Blue Sky” and “National Sword.” The National Sword focused on banning all foreign commodities that could not meet their stringent contamination requirements as well as some clean non-uniform mixed-grade materials. Essentially, almost all mixed residential “recyclables” collected in the U.S. are now banned from entering China.

“National Sword” has become a crisis for Waste Management, because we spent 20 years primarily developing single stream, multi-material recycling programs dependent on China as our market. The Chinese government gave us three months’ notice that they would no longer take our material as of January 2018. This left recycling programs serving almost 300 million people in the U.S. (who generate tens of millions of tons of recyclables) little to no markets for material we have collected.

Over the course of the next several years, we will adjust our recycling collection and processing systems and find new markets at home and in other countries around the world for the recyclables we collect. These adjustments will require some significant changes in our recycling programs.

Last updated: 2021-02-27