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China’s new recycling policies could financially hurt Arizona cities

(Flickr/James Wang)

PHOENIX — China is raising its standards for buying recycled products from other countries, which could financially hurt cities in Arizona.

The city of Chandler is already feeling the pinch. Chandler made about $543,000 last year after it sold its recyclables for a flat rate to United Fibers, a local recycling company that sorts through and sells recyclables to different vendors, including some from China.

“We are not projecting to see those same revenues just because we’re not receiving that flat rate anymore,” said Traci Conaway, recycling coordinator for the city of Chandler.

Conaway said the city had to restructure its contract with United Fibers recently due to China’s new recycling policies.

In April, the Chinese government announced it was extending the list of items they are no longer willing to recycle for other countries. It also announced it would not accept recycled items with contamination levels of 0.5 percent or higher.

Conaway said the city now plans to pay United Fibers a processing fee, and it will get a percentage of whatever money the company makes when it sells the recycled items to different vendors.

“It’s a possibility that some months we would earn revenue and there’s a possibility of some months we would owe revenue because the sell price would be less than the processing fee,” she said.

The city has already started preparing for a loss in revenue. Conaway said the “worst-case scenario” is the city would have to pay up to $450,000 in recycling processing fees.

“That’s the worst case scenario, so we have that money set aside in the budget,” she said. “But in all honesty, we don’t have a clear cut exact number of what that will be. We’re just preparing the budget for the worst-case scenario.”

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