SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WWSB)- China's recent decision to ban plastic and mixed papers imports from the United States has impacted the way we recycle.
"I don't know where my trash goes and I think a lot of people don't necessarily know where their trash goes," said USF Sarasota-Manatee Economics Instructor, Michael Snipes.
Snipes said that America has been sending a good portion of our recyclables to China for a while, mostly because it was cheaper to recycle there than at home.
America however recently started to tariff Chinese goods.
"Steel and aluminum are the ones that got the big headlines, but we've got tariffs on agricultural goods, manufacturing goods, we've got tariffs on a lot of different Chinese goods," Snipes said.
He went on to say he doesn't believe these tariffs are the sole reason why China stopped taking our recyclables, but it could be a factor.
"So they didn't stop just importing garbage and recycling from the United States, they stopped doing it everywhere. From Australia, the UK, the United States, they stopped doing it everywhere. So there might be some truth of it being related to the tariffs, kind of retaliating against the tariffs, but I think in a bigger picture, they just got tired of being the world's garbage can," Snipes said.
And because of that, America is starting to back up.
"Now we have to deal with all of the trash and all of the recycling that we previously didn't have to deal with and that's causing problems. We're seeing processing plants get backed up, we're seeing a lot of trash starting to back up and a lot of recycling starting to build up," said Snipes.
Sarasota County School District said this has caused a reduction in the amount of materials that it recycles.
Before it was okay for there to be some liquid left in bottles, but now any sort of contaminate will no longer be accepted. The district said it is trying to make people aware of these changes.
"I know there has been flyers put out and my understanding is that those are in the cafeteria so that it could help guide not just the students, but also any members of the staff with the changes, what those changes are and where they go," said Sarasota County School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler.
Some schools are also encouraging students to police the recycling bins, taking out anything that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.
It's hoped by educating students about the importance of recycling and by making everyone aware of the changes, they can keep the school green.
"I think it's just evolving to the newer regulations. We want to make sure that we're maximizing our recyclables and making sure that the intent is to recycle and not have it thrown out because it's not done the right way so we just want to make sure that that's what's happening on our end," Ziegler said.
Snipes said this new way of recycling for Americans could be beneficial, "It might take a little bit of growing pains, but ultimately I think it's good because it's going to force us to rethink the way we deal with trash and recycling."
He says it could bring change.
"It could lead to new innovations, it could lead to new technologies because now that we have this problem that we have to deal with, we have to deal with it somehow, and we don't necessarily have the capacity now," said Snipes.
This isn't just affecting the schools, but everyone at home as well. Uncontaminated plastic, paper, metal, and glass can go in the recyclables but things like plastic bags, pizza boxes, and milk cartons cannot. Also, when recycling, you shouldn't place your items in a garbage bag.
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