After more than two decades on Recycling Today’s editorial staff, in the second half of 2019, I took advantage of a sabbatical benefit offered by our parent company, GIE Media Inc., and unplugged from my full-time schedule for several months.

It is perhaps a cliché to call the break an opportunity to “recharge my batteries,” but in many ways it is an accurate portrayal of the adult equivalent of skipping a semester.

During the sabbatical I did not completely unplug from the recycling industry, attending four industry conferences in four different countries and attempting to keep in touch with email correspondence (while not being overwhelmed by it).

Maintaining some level of industry involvement seemed necessary, considering the pace of change in the recycling sector, the wider economy and in the adoption of policies that affect recyclers.

The second half of 2019 proved up to the task of generating volatile conditions and new circumstances, setting the table for a new year that is just as likely to yield changes.

The government of China did not drastically divert from its late decade aversion to importing scrap from other countries. However, at a November 2019 meeting in that country, the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association (CMRA) Recycling Metal Branch announced that change could be at hand.

According to the group, and to subsequent reports, pertinent Chinese ministries have agreed to classify some grades of nonferrous scrap as a resource. This would, ideally, eliminate cumbersome and restrictive quotas that have hampered aluminum and red metal scrap trade between China and scrap exporting nations.

“Maintaining some level of industry involvement seemed necessary, considering the pace of change in the recycling sector.”

Ferrous scrap recyclers in the United States saw appreciable buying interest from nations throughout Asia in 2019, and domestic demand was stable through much of the year.

Nonetheless, those seemingly positive conditions were not enough to prevent dramatic ferrous scrap price drops in the fall of 2019, creating one of those swoons that can damage the bottom lines of metals recycling firms.

Environmental advocates have continued to heap scorn on plastic, spurring numerous investments in emerging recycling methods.

Paper and board markets could benefit from packaging switches to those materials, but scrap paper prices reflected no such thing in 2019.

As Recycling Today’s staff prepares to talk to our readers at numerous 2020 industry events, we’ll be as eager as ever to hear how the changes are affecting you and what you’re doing to manage through change.