Home China Exposes the Recycling Scam's Dirty Secret
Home China Exposes the Recycling Scam's Dirty Secret

China Exposes the Recycling Scam's Dirty Secret

The huge dirty secret of recycling was also one of the world’s worst polluters.

Every branch of government from Washington D.C. to your local town council had spent a fortune convincing people that recycling is a magical process that turns your old pizza boxes into new pizza boxes while creating those imaginary “green jobs” in the community. The reality was a lot dirtier.

All of America’s industries, including trash sorting, had been outsourced to China.

And recycling is just a fancy lefty way of saying "trash." All that recycling, which children in progressive communities are taught to sort as the closest thing to a religious ritual, was really being dumped by the ton on dirty ships and sent over to China. We weren’t recycling it. The Chinese were.

But now China is banning foreign recycling because it’s bad for the environment.

Even the Communists got tired of sorting through the trash of American socialists. The recycling scam shipped garbage on dirty ships for dirty industries while pretending that they’re clean and green.

There was never anything clean about it. And only the money it brought in was green.

Now the recycling party’s over. Plastic recycling imports were banned early this year. Even fiber has trouble getting in to the People’s Republic. China’s mixed paper standards mean that most of the recycled cardboard and paper no longer passes muster. Instead it’s piling up in the United States.

The recycling scam used to be an easy trade. China shipped its cheap products made from recycled American junk and scrap here. The empty vessels used to dump Chinese junk products on America were then filled up with tons of recycling for the return trip back to China at minimal cost.

We sent them junk, they sent us junk. As the trade deficit grew, recycling was one of its many parasites.

But China is out of the recycling dump business. And the recycling business depended on it. No other market pays what it did. And no other country has the industrial scale to handle this much recycled trash. The American market is flooded with recycling that no one wants and trash prices have imploded.

And that’s having an immediate impact on the progressive recycling programs in the United States.

California’s trash is going right back to landfills. 62% of exported materials used to go to China. But no more. California’s Department of Resources Recycling sent a letter cautioning that the “economics of recycling” had become “unfavorable” thus “challenging what recycling means to Californians.”

It also warned recycling facilities that, “public health and safety should be their number one priority”.

In Massachusetts, mountains of trash recycling are piling up and there’s talk that trucks may stop picking it up. In Pennsylvania, a "recycling crisis created by China" was blamed for a refusal to accept paper. In Seattle and Phoenix, recycling is going into landfills. Fees are going up in Portland. In Pasco, recycling was abandoned before its start. In a Kansas City plant, one out of four items is going into a landfill. In Sacramento, where all of California’s recycling rules are made, most recyclables no longer are.

Fort Worth’s recycling brought in nearly a million last year. Now, it’s expected to cost $1.6 million.

Recology used to be the epitome of the reinvented garbage hauler, merging San Francisco urban politics with progressive PR about ending waste. But zero landfill talk has given way to a blunter reality, “There’s no market for a lot of stuff in the blue bin. What we can’t recycle we take to a landfill.”

Environmental regulations had already turned garbage collection in California into an expensive disaster, but this is an entirely unprecedented mess complete with mountains of trash and mountains of bills.

Recycling has become economically unsustainable, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away.

There’s too much money in environmental scams. And recycling is the biggest of them. The China crisis is being met with the three R’s of progressive policymaking; rent-seeking, regulations and robbery.

Some homeowners are already seeing higher trash collection fees. Those will only get worse. Especially on the West Coast where the China option helped dull the painful costs of recycling. But the costs will hit everyone as politicians resort to mandating higher levels of recycled content in everyday products.

Want to sell soda, tissues or milk? Pay the politically connected recycling companies for the privilege of using their trash. As recycling costs go up, content mandates will force companies to create an artificial market. And the costs will be passed along to consumers who will have to pay more for everything.

Like higher trash fees, tightened recycling regulations have also only begun to arrive. If you live in a blue state or city, expect to spend a lot more time sorting your trash, cleaning your cans and removing plastic from your envelopes so that they meet China’s new high standards for imported trash.

China will no longer be sorting American trash. So progressives have decided that you will.

We hear about the jobs that Americans won’t do. But this is a job that the Chinese won’t do. And that Americans will be forced to do for free. As China becomes more capitalist, America turns Communist.

Or as a video on the Recology site prompts, “How to be a better recycle because China demands it.”

Environmentalist municipalities have already begun rolling out condescending campaigns berating homeowners for their foolish and lazy recycling practices. ‘Wishcycling’ is a charmless portmanteau you will see more of. But what it really means is that homeowners who are already being taxed to death are being hectored by the environmental activists they subsidize who have never worked a day in their lives.

Will all of that save the recycling scam?

No, but it won’t matter. Most homeowners have no idea how much of their recyclables go into landfills anyway. The dirty business of municipal waste contracts will continue on uninterrupted. The extra fees and costs will be another one of the left’s thousand cuts that are bleeding the middle class to death.

Homeowners will be taxed harder so that crony cash can flow to even bigger recycling operations. You will pay more for everything you buy to subsidize politically connected, but uneconomical enterprises.

Recycling is not a reality, but an idea. Like Communism, it can never be achieved, but must be aspired to.

Smaller towns and cities will be forced to dump their recycling programs. And more conservative areas will be dissuaded from getting on board as the profit margins from recycling turn into pools of red ink. But blue states and cities will never abandon recycling. And if Washington D.C. goes blue again, the dictates of crony socialism and green fanaticism will roll out new compulsory standards nationwide.

Recycling is in crisis. But the environmental scam is too big to fail.

The ships carrying most of the blue state and city “green” trash will no longer be allowed into China. But there are other countries and continents desperate enough to take their socialist trash.

The dirty secret of recycling is that it depended on the willingness of Third World countries to greenwash our trash so that progressives could pretend that their moral garbage was saving the planet.

The smaller countries of Southeast Asia don’t have the capacity to take up China’s slack, but the People’s Republic has progressively been colonizing Africa. Some African countries were already being used to recycle and dump e-waste. The shipping won’t be as cheap, but recycling’s next stop is likely to be Africa where environmentalists will turn it into a trash heap… to protect the environment.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine at the following link.

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  1. You said it all. It's just another lefty myth that causes more pollution, like electric cars, which get recharged using coal powered electric outlets ... As long as the morons are kept stupid by the union run public schools, no reason that will change until Trump runs rampant over entire mythology of socialism.

  2. the solution to trash is plasma gasification - it's in use already at vairous parts of the world - problem is it competes with fossil fuels... Big Oil doesn't like it. The devices operate at sun temperatures, producing electricity, syn gas, elemental metals, high quality slag (for cement/building aggregates) keep feeding it garbage, it self sustains - can be scaled up or down.... I invested in this company (now defunct because the two owners - scientists- were schmucks, one died...) but it's an exemplar of how it works. Westchester County was going to put one at the Grasslands Reservation (where the medical center is in Valhalla), under Andy Spano, but it backed off because it did nmot "want to be the first on the block - Bill Ryan went to look at the plant in Bristol, CT.

    - run a check on the tech.

  3. This has been reported on, off and on (so to speak) since recycling became a business. I remember when paper recycling came into vogue, and businesses actively sought out recyclers in my city.

    One company outbid everyone else, charging less for picking up all the waste.

    Three years later, company went out of business, building owners of a large warehouse now full of huge stacks of 'recyclable' paper trash are stuck with the cleanup bill. That was back in the late 80's.

    Read a report on Miami, FL's glass recycling program. The city spent ba-millions collecting 'recyclable' glass and storing it, hoping to find a buyer. Finally they ended up grinding most of it into 'sand' and putting it onto beaches, which, of course, the enviro-idiots freaked about. But they recycled it, didn't they?

    The whole green movement is full of idiots, shysters, flim-flam men and outright frauds.

    Serves them right.

  4. You are going to make many "progresives" very angry with your articles. 😂😂😂😂

  5. This has happened in the UK too. Only 44% of the contents of recycling bins is recycled, the rest is sent to landfill.
    The local councils here are very strict with policing the contents of bins, they even claim that if a product made of non-recyclable plastic is in a recycling bin then the whole bin is therefore "contaminated", as if some sort of contagious disease was in the bin!
    Yes, they really use that word, "contaminated."

  6. Anonymous26/7/18

    I was a child in the BP era. (Before Plastic). I wonder whether we could ever return to that kind of recycling.

  7. Great essay. What are your sources for the information. I've long believed that "recycling" was mostly a scam. Fortunately, we live in a rural area too poor to support the lie. Heck, we even take Yankee trash into our landfills here - for a price.

  8. Anonymous26/7/18

    Hm, apart from reiterating that the Left are idiots (which is, after all, well known) — so what? Trash disposal was subsidized by China, now it isn’t, hence will become more expensive and possibly closer to home. That’s no one’s fault, unless you see a more economical way of dealing with it, which was crouded out by fake recycling so far. Is that your claim?

  9. I'm telling you, Daniel, I do recycle, but have been slowly just skipping the diligence about it.
    I was told that in my community the recycling plant runs out of space and they also just throw what does not fit into the regular garbage that goes in to the land fill.
    I am forwarding this excellent article to others. I knew that there were elements of recycling being bogus, yet I had no clue that we shipped our junk to China!!! That's insane!
    It's like a boomerang...

  10. Excellent - as always! But very troubling as well!

  11. Recycled money laundering.
    Excellent post!

  12. Before I retired, I taught environmental engineering at the university level for 35 years. One of my specialties was solid waste management, which includes recycling.

    Now virtually anything can be recycled, and there are long-established markets for metals. However, the question a potential recycler should ask, Is anyone going to pay me for this? The answer is almost always, No. The whole process depends of freely donated labor (the homeowner) and freely donated goods. In many communities these gifts/extortions are mandated by the local authorities, and there are police forces that enforce compliance.

    The best single indicator of the adverse environmental impact of an activity is total cost. This represents the labor, energy, materials and interest costs of a project. If an activity, like most recycling, requires either a subsidy or legal mandate, then it is almost certain that that activity has a net negative impact on the environment.

    In a free market and free society, which was aware of project impacts, recycling would be greatly reduced.

  13. Just a common 'tater28/7/18

    Daniel, you said, "Recycling is not a reality, but an idea."

    Perhaps you are not as old as I am, and I can remember quite clearly how we recycled back in the 50's and 60's. It seemed to work quite well until so many companies went with the modern "use and toss" and hyper-packaging (not just paper and some cellophane). But the real death knell was really the so called idiot environmentalists.

    I grew up in an industrialized city North of Chicago. In that city we did sort our own trash: "wet or dry". Wet was basically food scraps and paper. Dry was cans, bottles, plastics, glass, small scrap metal, and ashes from the coal burning home heating units.

    The city had an industrialized process where metals and most glass were recovered and sold. The rest I guess got buried. The paper and food scraps were ground up and burned to generate electricity. That stopped when Chicago (despite west to east and south to north air patterns) claimed we polluted their air and caused their smog (Chicago was at least 3X larger). Of course, the federal appeals court is there, so we lost to the Chicago mob. Our complete recycle and electricity generation were forced to stop and it all went to the landfill. So much for saving the environment.

    We saved our glass bottles (beverage, milk, certain juices that had cash return values, paper, cardboard, some metals, and cottons. An old Italian guy with a horse drawn wagon bought all that kind of stuff, cash on the barrel head. I had friends that worked at the local cardboard box factory that took a lot of that paperboard and made new boxes out of it. The paper was turned into recycled newsprint. I could go on, but for a family of 4-6 we did not generate that much landfill, and we got some money back for an appreciable amount of stuff that today is now going into the landfill.

    I would say recycling works and could again work if we got the government out of it and got rid of the phoney enviro-terrorists. I doubt that so many of today's plastics could be recycled, but a lot of that stuff can be recycled. The forced central planning economics and pseudo environmental policies do not work.

  14. I'd like permission to reprint this blog in our paper; the Linn County News, I'm the publisher, thank you - Jackie Taylor

  15. I remember grow up in california every home had a incinerator ... now i an in israel... maybe you know what going on here?

  16. Anonymous12/8/18

    Most of it is combustible I'm sure a blast furnace with coal combined would be feasible and used for generating electricity and probably made to be clean burning,it seems like I saw a ship that ran on ground up plastic.


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