Several overseas markets shutting down recycling services to the United States have put one local organization into a state of flux.

Earlier this year, China implemented higher standards on materials brought in for recycling that the United States couldn’t meet. With that market closed, Recycle Livingston, their vendor GFL, and other recycling organizations across the country began to look elsewhere. Recycle Livingston Executive Director Julie Cribley said they found buyers in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia, but without warning, they all stopped taking recyclable materials in July.

In response to this, GFL, which previously removed Recycle Livingston’s materials for free, notified that they would now be charging $200 per load. This will cost Recycle Livingston $1,400 a month that they don’t have budgeted, beginning September 1st.

To make this up, the Board of Directors met last week and approved emergency changes. Membership fees will be raised $10. Only plastics #1 and #2 will be accepted; no #3 through 7 or plastic bags of any kind can be permitted. Non-members will not be allowed to bring any plastic. Cribley said that if people can’t bring the material clean and sorted, Recycle Livingston may end up having to pay for it, and in all likelihood the material will be incinerated or thrown in a landfill. She said “That’s why we’re kind of taking this hard line right now. Either help us, or we’ll have to stop taking plastics altogether.

Cribley blamed low standards across the U.S. that has led to this period of “wishful recycling” that we’ve been living in. The goal, she belives, should be a transition into a period of purposeful and sustainable recycling. She said other organization across the state and country have been scrambling for new solutions this month, too. While many communities across Livingston County offer roadside recycling, she predicts that changes will likely be coming for those residents at some point, as well. Having had discussions with the Department of Environmental Quality, the Michigan Recycling Coalitions, vendors, and other invested parties, Recycle Livingston reports that they expect it to take 18 to 24 months for the global market to reset and stabilize. (MK)