What percentage of LDPE Type 4 plastic that you hand in to be recycled is in fact recycled into something useful? I ask this because I read that China stopped accepting plastic to be recycled from the West.


2 Answers 2


Things like this have also been going on even before the issues with China: https://www.ajc.com/news/local-govt--politics/metro-atlanta-recyclers-reject-glass-ship-landfills/Nd82esxPLUTvCb6963WyWJ/

If people aren't pre-sorting correctly, then even if the county theoretically does recycle a certain material, they could still be rejecting large batches. There have also been issues with recycling becoming unrecyclable due to plastic bags clogging and jamming the sorting machines: https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-plastic-bag-ban-recycling-0731-biz-20150730-story.html


What happens to #4 plastic in the waste stream depends on local policy where you live

Waste Dive, a project of the same folks who run Utility Dive, runs a tracker dedicated to "tracking the effects of China's scrap import policies across all 50 [US] states (and the District of Columbia)".

The tracker includes links to news stories about state, city, and county policies and changes in light of changes to China's import policies. Here are a few examples of how different jurisdictions are handling #4 plastic (emphasis added throughout):

No longer accepting it

Sacramento, CA: The City of Sacramento drops plastics #4-7, effective July 1, according to The Sacramento Bee. The Marin Independent Journal reports that Mill Valley Refuse is piloting dual-stream collection in select neighborhoods for four months to improve quality. Bakersfield begins composting some mixed paper, according to Bakersfield.com. (July 2018)

Hawaii: Maui County is no longer accepting mixed paper at its drop-off center and has also restricted its list of accepted plastics to #1 and #2, as reported by Maui Now. (Jan. 2018)

Burning it for power

Philadelphia, PA: Action News reports that about half of Philadelphia's recyclables are now going directly to a Covanta waste-to-energy facility. A city contract with Republic Services wasn't renewed due to cost concerns. A temporary deal was struck with Waste Management for the other half of Philadelphia's material while the city solicits bids for a new 10-year contract. Metro reports that situation has continued into November. (Nov. 2018)

Connecticut: The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, which owns a MRF operated by Republic Services, reported it was sitting on more than 1,000 bales of ONP and mixed paper, as well as hundreds more of OCC. Glass had already been a challenge, with much of it being shipped nearly 500 miles to Pennsylvania. With the exception of #5 plastics, MIRA was also sending other low-grade plastics that have no market with residue to its waste-to-energy facility. (April 2018)

Clearwater, FL: Clearwater reportedly sent nearly one-third of its recyclables to the Pinellas County waste-to-energy facility in August due to contamination. WFTS reports that some loads from Tampa have also been highly contaminated recently. (Oct. 2018)

Sending it to landfills

Westland, MI: The city of Westland is temporarily disposing all of its recyclables after a tip fee increase from $18 to $80 at a local Republic Services MRF, according to Hometown Life. After facing public pressure, including from Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the Westland City Council decided against sending material to a Detroit incinerator and is instead shipping it to a landfill. (NEW - Feb.-March 2019)

Fargo, ND: It's previously been reported that Fargo saw an uptick in contamination since switching to single stream collection. Inforum also reports that this is an issue at the city's two dozen drop-off sites. The average contamination rate for such locations is around 10%, enough to sometimes send loads to a landfill. (Aug. 2018)

Rejecting it for contamination

Las Cruces, NM: Las Cruces will begin inspecting carts for contamination starting in Sept. 2018 and use The Recycling Partnership's "Oops" tag method of positive feedback, rather than a fee, according to the Las Cruces Sun News. The Los Alamos Monitor reports that Los Alamos County is also focusing on education, in an effort to reduce its 17% contamination rate and stave off a potential rate increase from Friedman. (Aug. 2018)

El Paso, TX: Rather than renegotiate contract terms, or resort to a cheaper landfill option, El Paso Inc. reports that the city will step up its education efforts. El Paso's Environmental Services Department launches a a pilot program called "Tug Tip Turn and Tag" across 10,000 of the 180,000 households it services. The goal is to cut current contamination rates of 30-35% in half. (May 2018)

Charging more to process it

Onondaga County, NY: The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency's WTE tip fee will increase by about 7% in 2019 to offset its recycling losses, according to The Post-Standard. The agency also signed a new contract with Waste Management that raises its cost cap from $10 per ton to $49. (Oct. 2018)

Moore County, NC: Moore County has approved a tip fee increase for recyclables at its local facility from $25 to $100, according to The Pilot. (Dec. 2018)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.