Contamination is a big problem for recyclers around the globe. It has become an even more pressing issue in the states in the last few years as a result of China’s National Sword Policy. Our local economies are adapting to the changes but the market has not yet recovered.
Contamination is items or materials in the recycling stream that are not the desired object or material.
E.g. coffee and whipped cream are contaminants on a plastic cup. A plastic bag put in the plastic and glass bin is contamination because it is not a plastic or glass bottle or container.
Recyclables can only be recycled if someone is willing to buy them and turn them into a new product. The demand for recyclables changes, which affects their value and the ease with which they can be sold.
This policy decreased the acceptable contamination limit for imported recyclables. The U.S. was not equipped to meet the lowered standards and a lot of recycling material sent to China was rejected and sent back to the states.
Effects of the National Sword on the Recycling Market
The change to China’s policy created a flood in domestic markets, which meant that there was more product than there was demand for the product. This flood of recyclables caused a drop in their value. This drop is why a large number of recyclers and municipal services closed in the last couple of years - it was no longer economically feasible to run their recycling programs.
How You Can Help
Carefully follow the sorting method shown on the bin signs. The university may sort differently than the surrounding community or than how you sort at home. There is a reason we accept and do not accept certain items - we have carefully considered our system within the current and future recycling market. If you respect the Clemson system, our contamination levels will be low and our program will be better able to serve the university and maintain its economic viability.