A Waste Management Crisis

Even when we think we’re doing the right thing for the Earth, many factors can work against us. 

Did you know that China started rejected much of Australia’s recycling waste? Yep. We send it up there, they send it back or send it to landfill if it’s not worth recycling. 

More and more councils will start dumping recyclables in landfill as it’s more cost-effective. 

Some councils will wisely combat this with educational programs, clear waste bins and more but we have a waste management problem and it’s getting worse. 



The problem isn’t limited to Australia or caused by China. Our lack of awareness as a whole about what can be recycled is generally to blame. 

In Sacramento, the county dumped over 290 tons of recyclables in landfill. China’s new regulations will cost Sacramento County $2 million per year. 

So why is China being harder on accepting our waste? China, the top global importer of numerous recyclable materials, has accepted everyone else’s garbage with open arms for decades.

The major problem is contamination. People throw anything they think may be recyclable in. Aspirational recyclers are the largest part of the problem. It’s our job to know what can & can’t be recycled before it goes into the bin. 

In July 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection told the World Trade Organization that it would no longer accept imports of 24 common types of once-permitted solid waste due to contamination concerns.

Chinese officials believe that the waste it’s receiving from the U.S. and elsewhere is simply not clean enough; harmful contaminants are mixing in with recyclable materials and polluting the land and water.

Hopefully, these bans are the wakeup call we need. We are no longer going to be able to mindlessly throw soiled and oily pizza boxes, plastic yogurt containers and non-recyclables into the wrong bin. We will need to find ways to limit our waste, clean it up and eventually move closer to a zero-waste system.