Significant changes in international recycling markets are making a big impact on South Dakota.
Changes began in 2013 when China, the largest market for U.S. recycled products, launched an enforcement policy called Operation Green Fence. Then in 2017, China announced the current National Sword policy, banning a long list of imports including plastic and paper. These actions prompted other countries to tighten their restrictions as well.
With processors on the coasts no longer able to export, an abundance of material is now staying in the U.S., drastically increasing supply, decreasing demand, and dropping commodity values across the globe.
At Millennium, we believe the restrictions will eventually fuel domestic opportunity and create new jobs.
“Innovation for new infrastructure will take time but ultimately these changes can help our industry evolve for the better.”
With long-standing regional relationships, over 90% of the material Millennium processes stays in the Midwest. This has proven beneficial in a limited marketplace, but with commodity prices at a historical low we have been forced to take action.
We recently made the tough decision to remove plastic bags. The need for material continues, but outlets for bags have completely disappeared with no certainty of them ever rebounding.
As a privately owned and operated small business with no government subsidies, we must make calculated decisions to cover operational costs. All of the materials we currently accept are backed with stable markets and a long term vision. Accepted items include cardboard, paper, metal cans, plastic bottles, tubs, jugs, and glass bottles and jars (Yes, GLASS is still accepted by Millennium).
With multiple waste haulers in the community, education can vary between service providers. The uptick in production of non-recyclable packaging has also led to confusion, and the comparatively low landfill tipping fees in South Dakota make it difficult for some to understand the value of recycling.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is miscommunication.”
FUTURE OF RECYCLING
We are confident in the future of recycling, even with markets expected to remain low in the near term. The economics of recycling can be challenging, but we have always made it a priority to meet community and customer demand.
It takes a community effort to be successful and we need to continue working together to make sure that happens.
“Recycling is still THE major solution for landfill diversion and offers both economic and environmental benefits.”