In an ideal world, all types of recycling would be simple, accessible and rewarding. Evidence and common sense suggest that when household recyclingis made as easy as possible, more people are motivated to do the right thing. Unfortunately, not every recycling company is willing and/or able to operate following this basic recycling model.
Charged for Doing the Right Thing?
One of the more recent examples to illustrate the point is the Panda Waste Company in Ireland. Having traditionally collected household recyclingfor transportation and processing free of charge, the companyhas confirmed plans to start charging. According to TheJournal.ie, the company it is to implement charges of 80 cents per lift and 4.5 cents per kilogramme.
Not the most extortionate prices, but enough to discourage households from doing the right thing with their household recycling.
Plastic Export Ban to Blame
In this instance, the introduction of the collection fee has been attributed to the recently imposed ban on plastic importsfrom European countries into China. Having previously taken as much as 95% of Ireland’s plastic waste off its hands, the country is now finding itself dealing with a potential plastic recycling crisis in the making.
Options for the responsible recycling of plastics have become much thinner on the ground. As a result, associated household recyclingcosts have dramatically escalated on a global basis, so says the Panda Waste Company.
Nevertheless, the company spoke with confidence about the proposed recycling rates. They believe it to be a small and affordable price to pay to contribute to on-going sustainability and recycling practices in general.
“It has been widely reported that the change in Chinese policy has had a significant impact on the global recycling market and Ireland is no different to anywhere else in the world where local markets have experienced a significant increase in costs and in some cases a total loss of some outlets,”read a statement from the company.
Indeed, it isn’t just Ireland that’s reeling from China’s new import policy. China had previously handled almost HALF of the entire planet’s plastic waste. The newly-imposed ban on imports has therefore left countries worldwide struggling to adjust.
Officials in China stated that the import ban was necessary to improve quality of life for its citizens. In the meantime, other Asian countries have begun increasing their plastic waste import quotas. Not to such an extent as to compensate for the ban – more to capitalise on a growing business opportunity. However, eco-campaigners have expressed concern regarding these countries’ capacity to cope with elevated plastic waste imports.
Critics Hit Back
Introduced mid-April, the proposed charges have attracted support and criticism in equal measures. Many have suggested that recycling companies are simply using European plastic import/export restrictions as an excuse. They claim they’re choosingto implement charges that are ultimately all about maximising profits.
“Once you put private companies in charge of something, they are only interested in profit, and it was blindingly obvious that China’s decision to stop importing European plastic waste would have this effect,”Councillor Éilis Ryan of the Workers’ Party said.
Whatever the justification or otherwise, the fallout is inevitable. These small yet significant charges are exactly the kinds of demotivating measures that can have a knock-on effect on responsible household recyclingpractices. For some, being charged to do the right thing simply doesn’t make sense. When it’s just as easy (and free) to toss recyclable materials in the regular bin and wave them on their way, that’s what many will continue to do.
In any case, it will be interesting to see how other recycling companies respond to the new plastic import restrictions in China. The world’s collecting recycling question is no closer to being answered today than it was a decade ago. Unsurprisingly, further recycling cost increases have certainly notbeen ruled out of the equation.