By JASON DUNOVANT
Franklin County recently stopped accepting plastic at all 15 of its recycling stations. The change could last for months as the county considers other options in a new recycling market.
Signs were posted at recycling sites earlier this month, which came as a surprise to those who came to recycle their plastic.
“A lot of people came by with questions,” said Charles Catlett, project manager for Franklin County Public Works.
The decision stems from an announcement from China two years ago that it would no longer accept plastic recycling. Much of the plastic recycled in the United States was taken to China.
With the change, EMI Recycling in Bassett began charging Franklin County for its recycled plastic, according to Don Smith, director of Franklin County Public Works. The cost, Smith said, became too great to transport the plastic to Bassett, and he also questioned what was being done with the plastic since China was no longer accepting it.
Smith said plastic now goes to other countries such as Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. These countries take portions of plastic that are the cleanest and easiest to recycle, and either burn the rest or dump it in the ocean.
“We have made the decision that, until the market improves, we are not going to recycle plastic,” Smith said. “We are going to put it in the landfill.”
China’s decision to stop accepting plastic was mostly due to how contaminated the plastic was. EMI Recycling would sometimes send back plastic recycling, Smith said, because it was so contaminated with other materials or not disposed of correctly.
“A whole lot of the general public doesn’t know what clean recycling is,” he added.
Franklin County only accepted plastics with a “1” or “2” found on the label or bottle. Smith said the plastic should have been washed with the caps and lids removed.
Catlett estimated that only about 25% of the plastic placed in recycling was the correct type and disposed of correctly.
While plastic will no longer be accepted in the foreseeable future in Franklin County, Smith said he has heard from representatives from the recycling industry who have told him that new recycling centers are currently under construction in the U.S., which could improve the current situation.
“As soon as I see some improvement in the market, I will absolutely bring it back,” he said.