Recycling is not only a concrete step towards climate change, but also one of the drivers of global economic development.
The American Environmental Protection Agency EPA began to create programs that promote recycling and the use of recycled materials in 1990. Among these programs, programs that promote employment in the field of recycling were in the nature of financing recycling economic development grant programs. Thanks to these programs, a network of professionals from the recycling market was formed.
While the impact of programs like “Jobs Through Recycling” JTR on recycling job positions in America has been positive, government support has waned over time. The decrease in this support also negatively affected the financing. While the federal-level practices accelerated the purchase of recycled materials for the state, the private sector could not catch the same momentum. As political perspectives on recycling have changed, the corollary has been changes in funding. Although it could not progress in a stable line, these first steps taken to create the recycling market and employment contributed greatly to the establishment of the system in the country.
For a century, production in the world has been taking place on the axis of economic overseas shipping, taking advantage of cheap employment in overseas countries. As recycling came to the fore in time, the recyclable materials of Europe and America started to offer a commercial earning potential. Afterwards, it came to such a point that the demand for recycled material began to exceed the amount of material offered. This has led to the export of low quality recyclable materials to meet the increasing demand.
As a result, American recycling companies were late in making innovations in the field of recycling and keeping up with the developing recycling technologies, as they concentrated only on meeting the increasing demand.
America’s shipment of contaminated bales to overseas processors has caused some problems over time. These overseas processors were unable to clean up this level of contamination and so the pollution in their country was increasing day by day. One of these countries was China. With the formation of this pollution, the government immediately implemented the policies called Green Fence and National Sword and started to prevent pollution.
Michael Timpane, RRS Vice President of Materials Recovery, said: “It was so untenable to regulators.” says. “What those in the supply chain overlooked were the high costs of cleaning up contamination and the illegal release of pollutants into the environment.
When the Chinese Government put the restrictions into effect, the materials that came to China for recycling started to be received, this time by countries such as Vietnam and India. However, the result was the same. These countries also saw the problems caused by these high-contamination materials and took similar restraint measures.
In the later stage, companies in these countries started to work domestically by establishing their own MRF infrastructures, while at the same time they began to purchase assets to produce raw products or semi-finished products in the USA. These products, which they would produce in America, would be sent to their overseas facilities.
Situation in U.S.
The measures taken and the restrictions imposed by overseas countries, especially China, caused problems in the domestic market in the USA. A sufficient level of recycling exports could not be made. This had negative environmental effects. As a result, it has become a necessity for America to turn to the development of the domestic recycling market. Improvements in the domestic recycling market have made the system more responsible and flexible. In addition, companies in the private sector now had targets regarding the use of recycled content. The way they could achieve these goals was through the development of the domestic recycling market.
Decision makers, policy makers and government agencies agree on the benefits of the recycling market as an important development tool. These benefits are people, profitability and planet. Considering the current legal situation, there is almost no obstacle in front of the development in the recycling market. Because the technologies used in recycling are developing day by day and the demand for recycled materials is increasing constantly, either compulsorily or voluntarily.
There are recycling market development centers in America, and most are either government-established or government-funded. The aim of these organizations is to support the companies that demand recycled materials, to gather the necessary resources at one point, to provide the necessary coordination, to provide the necessary expertise and tools for the companies to cope with the obstacles they face, and to contribute to the development of this market by obtaining positive economic, social and environmental outputs as a result of all these.
Since the 1990s, states that have a recycling market development program have been reintroduced and resource support has been provided, and necessary steps have been taken to establish new centers in states such as New York, Washington, and New Jersey.
According to the 2010-2019 data of the Post-Consumption Plastics Recycling Data Report, exports of recovered post-consumer plastics in the United States decreased from 40% to 10%. It is possible to say that the effect of the pandemic on the worldwide supply has a share in this, albeit partially.
The Covid epidemic has also enabled the worldwide e-commerce volume to grow exponentially. As this directly affects the packaging industry, American paper mills are expanding to meet the increasing demand. Dan Felton, managing director of AMERIPEN St. Paul, Minnesota made the following statement about this situation. ” The recycling and manufacturing industries should see each other as partners in the production of products containing recycled materials. There should be a concerted effort to improve bale quality and create end markets for materials.”
The idea that recycling is only an application that prevents materials from going to waste should be left behind. It is one of the most concrete solution actions taken against climate change. It represents economic development, increases employment and encourages local investment. For all companies and individuals operating in the recycling market, now is the perfect time to start growing, increase cooperation and ultimately transform it into a circular economy.