SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Like many people living in Midtown Sacramento, Beau Britton is a serious recycler.
“What kind of stuff do you recycle? Plastic. Paper. Wood. I have a huge garden in my backyard. We recycle the plants,” he said.
All acceptable materials under Sacramento city and county recycling programs.
But there’s a problem.
The materials are all prohibited in countries, like China that buy California’s recyclables—about 15 million tons of it each year.
Now, Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste says the state is in a recycling panic.
“In China, in Vietnam in Korea, those markets have said no to a lot of our mixed recyclables because of the contamination,” he said.
What are these contaminated mixed recyclables?
According to new Chinese standards, they include:
- Plastic-coated paper like water cartons containing wax.
- Plastic-coated containers like salad or strawberry boxes you get at the store.
What about containers that have these recycling symbols on them? The manufacturer chose to put that symbol on the package. It’s not recyclable,” said Murray.
It’s a good example of coated plastic.
And waste advocates say, local jurisdictions should take it off their recyclable lists. Because China is charging them every time, they end up in their landfills.
“The city and county of Sacramento are looking at a program that they were gaining more than $1 million in revenue from this material now costing them $1.5 million,” said Murray.
For now, Sacramento County doesn’t plan to pass on those costs to consumers. But advocates suggest new fines may be the way to go.
“I think that maybe going a little too far. I suspect the people that are not recycling are not educated about recycling,” said Britton.