Faso Urges Lighthizer to Intervene in Changes to Recycling Materials Standards

Washington D.C. – Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook) this week urged the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, to address the change in recyclable material import policy by the Chinese government. The policy change, which severely restricts the contamination standards for plastics imported into China, has reverberated through our local waste facilities and county recycling agencies. Prior to this change, these agencies could sell more recyclable plastics into the market but now face added costs to collect and sort through these materials which may result in increased rates for families.

Excerpt from the letter:

“I have heard from various recycling officials across my district and they have repeatedly expressed concern with the impact that this shift in Chinese policy will have on their local operations. Municipal and private recyclers are having difficulty in moving these materials to processing facilities and are having to pay haulers to get these materials into the waste stream.

 

“I encourage the Administration to address this issue in ongoing trade conversations with the Chinese government because it is imperative that the United States remains a leader in the reutilization of waste materials while also proving municipalities with an efficient means of removing recyclable goods.”

 

Background on Changing Chinese Imported Recyclables

China has consistently been one of the largest importers of recyclable materials exported from the United States. In 2016, China took in roughly 50% of the world’s recycled paper and plastic.

China has taken numbers steps to outright ban and severely restrict several types of recyclable materials that are allowed to be imported into the country. Local agencies are suffering a variety of impacts including decreased revenue from selling products into the recycling stream, higher costs to sort through materials at processing facilities to reduce “contamination”, and increased transportation costs to haul these materials.

Text of the letter is below and a signed copy is available here.

 

The Honorable Robert E. Lighthizer

United States Trade Representative

600 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20508

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,

Thank you for your timely responses to my office regarding various trade negotiations that are ongoing around the world.

As you are aware, China has banned certain imported solid waste materials from the United States while also imposing strict standards for the contamination level of other recyclables. This shift in policy has dramatically altered the international waste reclamation process due to the major role China has played in this global operation since the 1980s. While there are other markets for U.S. recyclables, nearly 40 percent of U.S. scrap exports go to China, and there is no way for other countries to simply absorb this large influx of materials.

I have heard from various recycling officials across my district and they have repeatedly expressed concern with the impact that this shift in Chinese policy will have on their local operations. Municipal and private recyclers are having difficulty in moving these materials to processing facilities and are having to pay haulers to get these materials into the waste stream.

I encourage the Administration to address this issue in ongoing trade conversations with the Chinese government because it is imperative that the United States remains a leader in the reutilization of waste materials while also proving municipalities with an efficient means of removing recyclable goods.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or require additional information from various local recycling agencies.

Sincerely,

John J. Faso

Member of Congress