“Because Chinese consumption is far less developed than the West’s, more than 70 percent of the materials that feed the country’s recycling industry must come from abroad,” according to the New York Times.
The United States exported $22 billion worth of recycled materials to 152 countries in 2007. Now, the value of American recyclables has decreased up to 70 percent. Western recyclers are grappling with growing stockpiles whose value continues to sink. Chinese importers are demanding to renegotiate contracts. In some cases, they are even refusing shipments from the U.S.
Environmentalists and recycling experts are worrying about the impact of the recession and lower values on recycling. With Western curbside recycling programs becoming less profitable, many local governments in the U.S. are re-examining their programs as they struggle to balance budgets. In some cases, that means recyclables, once exported, are going to landfills.