China's Policies Impact Local Recycling

The export of baled recyclable materials is a key component of California's recycling infrastructure. CalRecycle estimates that a third of all recyclable material generated in California annually is currently exported to foreign markets, and 62 percent of that goes to China. This movement of materials is critical for allowing the state and local jurisdictions to reach their recycling and diversion goals.

However, in July 2017, China announced a policy called National Sword, which limits the import of contaminated recyclable commodities and increases inspections of recyclable commodity imports. In October, the Solid Waste Association of North America issued a notification about the policy, which goes into effect in March 2018. This policy change is already starting to have adverse impacts on California, and may result in more material being disposed in landfills or in the closure of in-state recycling facilities. In addition, changes in China's policies may have significant impacts on California's economy, as recyclable materials exported from California had a total vessel value of $4.6 billion in 2016, and on California's broader environmental goals.