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As when cotton hit its previous high price in 1995, the scramble was on for old bottles.

Which you, American reader, the world’s leading consumer of soda and bottled water, had in spades.

S., was selling about 35 percent of its recyclables to China.

By the end of 2018, China’s National Sword policy, which banned plastics outright and placed strict standards on paper imports, brought that number down to 1 percent.

It is currently, you may have heard, not a good time to be in the business of collecting and selling household recycling.

Americans are still diligently filling our blue bags with everything we can, but there are fewer places for our dirty goods to go to find redemption.That’s in part thanks to China’s 2017 decision to shut the door on imports of recycled materials, ending a two-decade stretch during which the U. came to rely on the country to take and process about 70 percent of its used paper and 40 percent of its used plastic.In 2017, Republic Services, the second-largest waste collector in the U.It’s an ancient practice motivated not by virtue but by profit. There are grease buyers and ship strippers and copper wire thieves.The single greatest recycled material in the United States, by weight, is ferrous scrap—primarily iron and steel from old cars. (The three biggest buyers are Turkey, Mexico, and Taiwan.) But when you think of recycling, you’re almost certainly thinking of the recycling you make at home.(It always feels better when you make it at home, whether “it” is a roast chicken or a globally traded commodity.) Nobody makes more of it than you do, because nobody buys more stuff than you do.A lot of that stuff you buy comes from China, whose demand for raw materials to turn into your stuff was one of the defining economic stories of the 2000s.As the price of “raw” plastic increased, recycled plastic—a natural substitute for manufacturers—became more expensive too.What was goodfor the companies that did business with them.The hunger of Chinese manufacturers for wood pulp, plastic, and aluminum can’t be met by Chinese suppliers or even big commodity exporters like Brazil and Indonesia.Chinese importers solved this problem by buying enormous amounts of recyclables to substitute for raw materials.

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