Recycle the Recycling Industry

Written by Hallie Brennan, Upcycle Santa Fe | September, 2018

The majority of United States based recycling firms still think it’s a good idea to ship our plastic waste overseas.  China banned foreign plastic waste imports in January of this year.  A short six months later Thailand did the exact same thing.  Vietnam is no longer issuing permits for foreign plastic waste imports. Taiwan is drafting regulations to restrict imports, as well.  What is going on, here?  Why don’t foreign countries want to accept our plastic waste?  Maybe it has something to do with toxic pollution, contaminated water streams, and environmental disaster.  Maybe this is why we don’t even accept our own plastic waste…

The U.S. sent 70 million pounds of plastic waste to Thailand, alone, in just three months!  Here’s a quote from The Nation, a Thai news outlet, “I have no doubt that the recycling of plastic waste and used electronic parts are profitable businesses at the moment.  Some business operators may make a lot of profit from the recycling industry, but what will the country gain from their prosperity when our environment becomes polluted and the people suffer?”  This very rational quote comes from the Natural Resources and Environment Minister, General Surasak Kanchanara.  Finally!  Someone is talking sense!

Screen Shot 2018-09-29 at 11.26.12 AM
Photo: Greenpeace International.  A neighborhood in Thailand suffering from plastic pollution.

Solutions for recycling post-consumer plastic waste generated in the United States need to happen in the United States.  There is a business model which ships these plastics overseas, as foreign markets purchase scrap plastic from U.S. suppliers, and then use the recycled plastic to affordably manufacture goods.  Those goods are often shipped right back over to the U.S.  How many election cycles have you been through witnessing the working class people of the U.S. demand jobs be brought back to the U.S., and stop being sent overseas?  How often have you heard workers in the U.S. demand more manufacturing jobs, and celebrate the factory goods, manufacturing culture that was once part of the American Dream?  If we recycle our own post-consumer plastic waste in our country, this affordable recycled plastic could then be supplied to domestic manufacturers, possibly rekindling the manufacturing industry once again.


Additionally, the U.S. has some of the strictest regulations on EPA approved manufacturing, especially when compared to other countries.  Rather than sending plastic waste to foreign countries where regulations can be less strict, creating potential environmental disasters, we keep the plastic waste in our own country where we’ll work to process plastics as environmentally friendly as possible.  Many of our nation’s industries get a little Greener as the years go by.  We have what it takes to do the right thing.

We live in a world where the manufacturing of goods isn’t going to cease to exist.  That same world generates a lot of single-use plastics which need responsible handling.  With open minds, lets keep the revenue generated from the recycling industry 100% domestic.  Lets take responsibility for our own generated waste, and promote domestic jobs through the manufacturing industry.  Lets recycle an outdated recycling industry.


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