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Columbus Recycling Companies Hit By China's Ban On Plastic Waste

Sam Hendren

Some Central Ohio recycling companies blame China’s ban on imported plastic waste for rising costs and lower revenues.

Sims Brothers Recycling in Marion reports it lost 10-15 percent of its plastics business since last year, when China cracked down on importing a variety of plastic items for recycling.

“We’ve had to tell a lot of customers we cannot accept materials that we used to be able to bring in and bale and process and ship overseas,” says Jeff Clark, head of non-metallics recycling at Sims Brothers Recycling.

Clark says items like butter tubs, yogurt and meal containers cannot go to China now. Clark says his company now charges the cities of Marion and Delaware to pick up the plastics waste so it can recoup the cost of recycling.
Rumpke Waste and Recycling also says the company has restricted what items they accept, and increased some charges.

“The increased processing expenses prompted by measures to meet end user purity standards has forced Rumpke to reevaluate the price of recycling in some instances,” wrote Amanda Pratt, a spokeswoman for Rumpke Waste and Recycling.

Clark says China's ban on imported plastic waste leaves fewer options to recycle. He says he sends some of the plastics to a company in Canada now.

“We’ve got to find more markets here in the United States to process this material or it’s just going to continue to go back into the landfill, which a lot of it has done that," Clark says.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.