We’ve been hearing about the recycling crash for a while now, but as the world’s biggest importer of recyclables, it’s worth noting how hard it is hitting China. According to the New York Times, recyclables from around the world, once a fuel for fevered manufacturing, are now simply stacking up in mountainous piles across the country, worth less and less every day:
“Everything was moving along just fine until October and then we fell off a cliff,” said Bruce Savage, a spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade organization that mostly represents American waste processing companies.
The United States exported $22 billion worth of recycled materials to 152 countries in 2007. Now the organization estimates the value of American recyclables has decreased by 50 to 70 percent. Western dealers say they are grappling with mounting stockpiles whose value in many cases continues to sink. To make matters worse, Chinese importers have been demanding to renegotiate contracts drastically downward. In some cases, they are refusing to accept shipments they already have a contractual obligation to take.
Will recycling recover when the economy recovers, or are the wounds currently being inflicted on the markets irreparable?