Recycling trade organizations are quick to tout—and rightfully so—the dual “green” benefits of efficient recycling. Recycling can be as green as the U.S. dollar when it provides cost-effective ways for manufacturers to save money on raw materials costs, and it offers scrap generators revenue rather than a disposal cost.

The Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) is one group putting considerable effort into publicizing the numerous “green” environmental aspects of recycling, in part with its March 18 Global Recycling Day campaign.

It certainly seems to serve the best interests of for-profit recycling companies to publicize both benefits of their industry sectors, and now might be a critical time to do so in a global capacity.

China’s government, seemingly defying both “green” benefits of recycling, has demonized imported secondary raw materials as “foreign garbage,” and the attitude toward scrap materials is spreading to neighboring Asian countries.

"Now might be a critical time for for-profit recycling companies to publicize the benefits of their industry sectors.”

The subsequent effects of this campaign may be yielding results the Chinese government did not expect. On the financial ledger, China’s paper companies reportedly are paying far beyond the going global price for scrap paper as of mid-2018 as they try to wring out new supply from within China’s borders.

The nation’s containerboard prices logically have followed suit by increasing, prompting some containerboard buyers within China to seek imported rolls of finished board.

In the other “green” category, China’s disdain for scrap is likely to cause its manufacturers to turn to mined, extracted and forested resources. That flies in the face of the nation’s “blue skies” campaign to clear air pollution and, likewise, strikes one as contrary to China’s presence as a signee of the Paris Agreement, pledging to take consistent steps to reduce carbon emissions.

At the BIR World Recycling Convention in late May, the speculation among presenters and attendees as to how the spreading distaste for scrap imports will play out was bountiful. Whether for dollars-and-cents reasons or resource conservation purposes, both “green” arguments make as much sense as they ever have, providing recyclers with hope that the rest of the world will come to its senses.

CORRECTION: In its May 2018 issue, Recycling Today incorrectly ran a photo of a preshredding machine in its article, “Sheared for a profitable trip,” which focused on metal shears and balers. I, personally, and Recycling Today regret the error.