The Recycling Today Media Group hosts four conferences in the fall of 2017 in three different cities on two different continents. In terms of the need for recyclers to come together to exchange information and ideas, the timing of these events could not be better.

Recent events (many of them outside the United States) have the potential to create sudden and sizable changes in the value of some scrap materials as well as how they are collected and handled and where they flow.

A series of enforcement actions and policy directives in China targeted toward imported scrap materials is a foremost concern. China’s government initially targeted imported plastic scrap, but its actions now extend into the metals and paper sectors also.

Throughout the first two decades of this century, China has acted as a sponge, absorbing scrap metal, paper and plastic to help feed its growing manufacturing sector and its need for basic materials.

While one might think China’s ability to use discarded materials to help build a manufacturing powerhouse would be admirable, media reports (sometimes sensationalist) often depict it as a practice built on taking in “foreign garbage.”

That latter sentiment reached a peak with the 2016 documentary film “Plastic China,” which portrays the plastic recycling sector as environmentally unsound and exploitative toward workers who sort commingled plastic scrap. Rumors abound that China’s President Xi Jinping watched the movie and subsequently directed the crackdown on imported scrap materials.

One opportunity is at hand Oct. 10-13, 2017, when the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference and the MRF & Recycling Plant Operations Forum are held during the same week at the same venue in Chicago. Each event includes sessions on responding to the changing export market.

One week prior, Oct. 2-4, recyclers and solid waste handlers are invited to Fort Meyers, Florida, for the Renewable Energy from Waste Conference. Recyclers commissioned with understanding all the landfill diversion options available can benefit from programming at this event.

Finally, recyclers with a fully global mindset can benefit from attending the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 7-8. The challenging situation in China and export opportunities elsewhere in Asia are the focus of the first two sessions at this event.

Considering the turbulent state of the recycling industry, selecting at least one of these events to commiserate with fellow business owners and managers is likely to be a sound investment.

Should China’s ban on multiple scrap materials be enforced in 2018 as planned, attending an industry conference with the latest information in October or November can be considered an imperative.