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Market Disruptions

Background

In 2017 and 2018, China implemented a series of waste import restrictions limiting or banning a variety of recyclable materials, including multiple types of plastics and mixed fiber. As the largest consumer of the world’s scrap material, China’s policies have caused global impacts to recycling markets.  Communities and businesses in the U.S. are seeking new markets for materials previously exported to China. They also are experiencing depressed market values due to the abundant supply. While the southeastern U.S. is faring better than other parts of the country, local impacts in North Carolina are still being felt.

The North Carolina Recycling and Materials Management Section (RMMS) is addressing these impacts by:

Developing Recycling Markets

Each year, the Recycling Business Assistance Center (RBAC) – a team within RMMS – offers grants of up to $40,000 to an individual business to pursue projects to expand processing and/or manufacturing capacity for recycled materials in North Carolina. The RBAC business development grants create new jobs and encourage private investment within the state.

In anticipation of China’s change in recycling import policies, the RBAC targeted the 2018 grant cycle to prioritize projects that addressed materials affected by China’s import ban (mixed paper, #3-7 plastics, bulky rigid plastics and agricultural plastics). As a result, 11 of the 21 awarded grants will expand domestic markets in North Carolina for these specific materials.

Similarly, the 2018 grant cycle prioritized expansions or improvements to material recovery facilities that have been hit hard by depressed market pricing and high contamination rates. An additional three grants will support material recovery facility upgrades to improve efficiency and produce cleaner, higher quality end materials.

The 2018 grant projects that will expand domestic markets for materials affected by China include:

  • AEIPLUS (Agricultural film) - $30,000 grant for a sand remover for agricultural film
  • Bromley Plastics (Post-industrial and post-consumer plastics) - $40,000 grant for a plastic chopper/shredder to increase processing capacity
  • Brunson Recycling (Medical plastics) - $20,000 grant for a guillotine roll shear for HDPE and PVC
  • Commercial Plastics Recycling (Post-industrial plastics) - $20,000 grant for a PVC pipe grinder
  • Envirovision Technologies (Post-industrial and post-consumer plastics) - $40,000 grant for a plastics wash line
  • HighCube (Polystyrene) - $21,067 grant for two shredders for expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam)
  • Holmes Iron and Metal (Post-industrial plastics) - $20,000 grant for a plastics wash line and granulator
  • Pelican Packaging (Post-industrial plastics) - $40,000 grant for a baler to increase processing capacity
  • Plastic Materials (Post-industrial plastics) - $17,120 grant for two forklifts to increase production capacity and throughput
  • Roll-Tech (Post-industrial plastics) - $18,780 grant for equipment to manufacture recycled plastic wheel hubs
  • Verity (Agricultural plastics) - $30,000 grant for a box truck to collect agricultural plastics

The RBAC is also leveraging grant funding in 2019 to prioritize investments that build and support recycling markets for the materials impacted by China’s policies.  

Fighting Contamination

The RMMS produced a free anti-contamination toolkit for communities, haulers and material recovery facilities to use to help educate customers about what does and does not go into the recycling cart.  All outreach materials are free and can be found at: https://deq.nc.gov/conservation/recycling/general-recycling-information/outreach-materials.

These anti-contamination graphics and education materials can also be tailored to individual community needs – free-of-charge. Contact Mel Gilles, recycling outreach specialist, at (919) 707-8127 for assistance with customizing outreach materials.

Assisting Communities and Businesses

The RMMS staff have been working one-on-one with communities and businesses to find solutions to changing market conditions. Staff are available to provide individualized technical assistance upon request. Contact Matt James at (919) 707-8133 for assistance.

The RMMS staff are actively engaging with regional groups, regularly sharing information, and facilitating conferences and events. In 2018, RMMS staff: