China’s foreign waste ban means higher costs for New Canaan
NEW CANAAN — It’s uncommon a policy enacted by China would have a ripple effect in a small town like New Canaan, but with the country’s ban on foreign waste this year, local recycling just got more expensive.
At its Dec. 4 meeting, the Board of Selectmen approved a contract for $197,000 for City Carting of Stamford to take away recycables — more than five times the $37,000 they paid the company last year for the same service.
Superintendent of Solid Waste Don Smith said this comes as a result of China’s new policy on foreign waste. China had previously imported 45 percent of the world’s plastic refuse since 1992, allowing many countries, including the United States, to avoid devising a plan to deal with the unwanted material. However, a ban enacted Jan. 1 stopped the importation of foreign plastic waste to China.
“China is no longer taking it and we are trying to find markets to get rid of it, and a lot of people don’t want it,” Smith said, adding this change has affected the global market.
The policy’s impact on the U.S. is now being felt in towns around the country, beginning in California and trickling to the East Coast, Smith said.
New Canaan isn’t alone with higher costs due to China’s decision.
“Stamford just got hit with $1 million after their budget was done to fix their same situation,” Smith said.
Officials in neighboring Wilton acknowledged the economic consequences of the ban this past summer, saying the town, which is already losing $300,000 a year at its transfer station, could lose an additional $100,000 when it signs a new contract for recyclable disposal at the end of the year.
“It’s something the state is working on now,” Smith said. “They’re trying to change everything, but it’s going to be a hard process.”
One of the increases in New Canaan’s expenses comes from the “pull fee” to take away the bins of recycables. The cost jumped to $225 a bin, from $78 a bin. In addition, there is a $60-per-ton processing fee, which had not been charged in prior years.
Director of Public Works Tiger Mann said China’s decision has sparked a complete change in the global market.
When asked if the town would abandon single-stream recycling, Mann said that direction had not yet been received from the state.
“The town may consider separating out the glass,” he said. “But that will require more space at the transfer station.”
Smith said, as of right now, there hasn’t been a specific plan at the state level to address the issue.
“They’re just trying to clean it up to make it easier,” he said. “Nobody knows yet.”
Selectman Nick Williams questioned how the recycling disposal costs were budgeted, and Mann said the department will have to go to the Board of Finance for additional money to be safe.
“The per-pull has increased so dramatically,” he said. “If we can actually compact the material inside the dumpster and reduce the amount of the per-pull fee each time, that should help us.”