China’s 2018 National Sword policy banned specific recyclables with more than 0.5% contamination. The average contamination rate of recyclables at the curb is 25%, according to a Waste Management press release.

The amount of contamination found in certain recyclables has caused concern for China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. The ministry, which focuses on limiting pollution in China, found that large amounts of dirty or hazardous waste was mixed in with recyclables that could be reused. The ban has caused recycling commodity prices to drop, with particular declines in products of single-stream recycling.

In Cole County, Republic Services discontinued its single-stream recycling service in St. Martins, Wardsville, Taos and Russellville. St. Martins City Administrator Doug Reece said Republic Services stopped all recycling services in St. Martins on April 1.

Reece said Republic Services could have charged households $11 per month. The city didn’t pursue the new deal because of a lack of interest from the community, Reece said. Republic Services will still offer the same trash collection services to these cities, but curbside recycling is just not worth the cost in rural towns.

The issue is not limited to just rural towns in Cole County. Srinivasan Raghavan, sustainability professor at the University of Missouri, said communities across the country are being forced to dump recyclables in landfills. “It has seriously hurt recycling companies here in the U.S. to the point where they’re unable to sell their waste plastic, especially some of the smaller towns,” Raghavan said.

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