Where Recycling Goes

NBC 29 explains what happens to the stuff we take to the recycling center. No surprises, but interesting.  #

6 Responses to “Where Recycling Goes”


  • Interesting article. I’m troubled by the fact that we send our cardboard to China. I guess companies have calculated the relative costs of shipping cardboard to China vs recycling it here and found shipping to be cheaper.

    But what’s the environmental cost? Unless governments impose a serious tax on long-haul shipping the environmental cost does not appear anywhere on the balance sheet. But if governments impose a tax, then the international commerce organizations scream “protectionism”!

  • Hey – an addendum about WVIR – they’re getting a satellite truck soon. First in the market.

  • Lemur – The Chinese are willing to pay for the used cardboard because they don’t have the raw materials (wood pulp) in sufficient quantity/quality to package all their products. In the US, there is plenty of wood pulp and it is less economical to reuse the cardboard. If we didn’t export used cardboard, it would likely end up in the landfill. What would be the benefit of “imposing serious taxes” on long-haul shipping? That would impact quite a bit more than just cardboard.

  • In agreeing with Sean, I would note how disappointing it seems that our recycled materials are making a huge (seemingly energy inefficient) trip to China. However, the sad reality is that the large container ships that bring us loads of junk every day are returning mostly empty to China and the cardboard might as well take up some of that space. In order to change that paradigm we need to both reduce our demand for the type of consumer goods making the long voyage over as well as increasing demand for domestic recycled products. This can occur by actively seeking and buying recycled products (not so hard these days). I’m wondering what happens to glass around here (not mentioned in the article) I’ve heard that there are some asphalt companies that use mixed glass in roads.

  • “If you take part in a local curbside recycling program, there’s a good chance it ends up at Tidewater Recycling’s Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF, just south of Richmond.” This seems to imply that there’s a chance that it isn’t, which was the concern brought up by former councilor Kevin Lynch because of a background report given to Council by a staff member. Since that flurry of back and forth, I decided I will still place cardboard, plastic, cans, papers, aluminum and glass curbside and take the rest to McIntire but continue to have my doubts. Especially when I hear the glass breaking sometimes when it’s thrown into the back of the truck.

  • While close to a year old, this article gives credence to the demand for recyclable paper in China.
    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/departments/technology/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003562995

    There are many localities in Virginia that are sending recyclable paper and cardboard to Rock-Tenn/Sonoco in Richmond and Lynchburg and Greif Bros., which is in NE Amherst County. Both companies recycle for domestic use.

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