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Solid Waste & Recycling Services

China Restricts Imports of Recyclables

Thursday, April 26, 2018
China Restricts Imports of Recyclables
The looming trade war between the United States and China hit the domestic waste management
industry as China, the world’s top
destination for recyclable commodities,
imposed restrictions on
imported recyclables for reuse.
The restrictions include an outright
ban on 24 different categories
of recyclable materials
that China imports from the
United States and the rest of the
world. Because of the ban, U.S.
recycling markets are in turmoil,
with serious stress in the industry
and for regional recyclers.
The ban, referred to in China as
the National Sword policy,
was implemented Jan. 1 and
turned the recycling industry in
the United States and around
the world upside down. Under
National Sword, China is now
refusing to accept recyclables
unless they meet the highest
quality standards and, more important,
unless they meet lower
contamination standards than
what were previously considered
normal and acceptable in
the industry.
As a result, U.S. recyclers are
being forced to stockpile or,
worse yet, landfill nonqualifying
recyclables, or accept drastically
reduced prices from other non-
China end-users that are 50 percent
to 100 percent below what
was paid last year. Many endusers
are now charging recycling
plants to receive their recyclables.
One company, J. P. Mascaro &
Sons, a privately owned waste
service company based in
Audubon and an industry leader
in recycling, promised it will not
allow China National Sword policy
to lessen its commitment to
recycling and sustainability, or to
its customers.
J.P. Mascaro has already invested
over $100 million in its recycling
and sustainability efforts,
including $25 million in its fullyautomated,
ultra-modern, 85,000-
square-foot TotalRecycle single
China restricts imports of recyclables
By: Stan Huskey, April 20, 2018
Under its so-called “National Sword” policy, China has
placed restrictions on importation of recyclable material.
The move has put the U.S. recycling market into turmoil.
(Photo courtesy of
stream recycling facility in Exeter
Township, Pennsylvania, and
more is on the way.
“TotalRecycle is one of the premier
single-stream recycling material
recovery facilities in the
United States and Mascaro’s
commitment to continued and increased
recycling will not falter,”
said Joseph P. Mascaro Sr., director
of sustainability and general
manager of the TotalRecycle
facility. “Our company will take
whatever steps are necessary to
weather this China National
Sword” storm, and we will become
a stronger industry participant
because of it
“The China ban has created
many serious challenges for U.S.
recyclers, including our TotalRecycle
operation, but our company’s
commitment to recycling
and sustainability and to our recycling
customers is here to stay.
We will continue to invest in our
recycling operations to meet
today’s market challenges.”
As an example, Mascaro has ordered
and by early 2019 will install
more than $4 million of
additional state-of-the-art optical
sorting equipment at its TotalRecycle
facility to meet the higher
quality/lower contamination standards
that are now a reality in the
China-dominated marketplace.
The equipment will enable Mascaro
and TotalRecycle to produce
end-use paper/fiber
recyclables of outstanding quality
and with the lowest contamination
levels, which will be in high
demand in paper mills everywhere,
including China.
China has historically imported
and processed more than 55 percent
of the world’s recovered
paper and plastic commodities.
In an average year, the United
States produces more than 21.5
million metric tons of the almost
70 million metric tons of those
products that are produced
worldwide. Before the National
Sword ban, China imported in
excess of 36.5 million metric tons
annually, leaving recyclers in the
United States and the rest of the
world scrambling now to find alternatives
for more than half of
the materials they generate.
Companies such as Mascaro
that double down on their industry-
leading commitment to recycling
will sustain and grow their
business for the benefit of their
customers. Others, that do not,
will likely find it difficult to continue
as successful participants
in the recycling industry.
An increased recycling commitment
by companies like Mascaro
to meet today’s market realities
will likely result in some consumer
cost increases for recycling
services, but when
compared to what it would cost to
landfill or incinerate those materials,
such increases will be acceptable
to customers,
particularly when the environmental,
social and sustainability
benefits of recycling are considered.
“Our industry has historically experienced
volatility, with many
peaks and valleys, and our company
has always successfully
dealt with such industry volatility
by staying the course and by
doing whatever is needed to remain
ahead of the curve,” Mascaro
company President Pat
Mascaro said. “At J. P. Mascaro
& Sons, we address and resolve
industry problems, like the current
China ban problem, when
they occur, and as a company
we grow stronger and better
serve our customers because of
“Both our trash and recycling
customers know that J. P. Mascaro
& Sons, as an industry
leader, is a company that plans
and invests for the long-term as
it relates to its business and facility
operations, including its recycling
operations in today’s
changing marketplace,” Mascaro
continued. “During difficult times
like are now being experienced
because of China’s National
Sword policy, we always strive to
inform and deal with our customers
in good faith, and they, in
turn, reward us with their continued

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