LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. — For decades, China took nearly half of the recycled material from the United States.
It was a huge market, and a way to keep those products out of local landfills. In 2018, that changed.
China said it would no longer accept recyclables that were contaminated.
Local counties, including Lancaster, are feeling that overseas change and making drastic changes at home.
Currently, the 13 recycling centers around Lancaster County take household trash, then separate out the plastics, glass, metals and cardboard.
However, after Jan. 21, plastic and glass won't be recycled at all.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis told Channel 9 it's a financial decision, and they have no other choice.
"It's just gonna go into the household garbage, which will be disposed of in the landfill," Willis said. "If the market is not there, we just don't have anything else to do with the material. We can't have huge warehouses full of plastic just sitting there."
Most homeowners weren't familiar with the coming change, and weren't happy about it.
"I don't think it's right,” Rich Weihs said. “I mean, if we're going to recycle, we should be recycling everything.”
Millie Diaz, who took her garbage to the convenience center in Indian Land on Thursday, had a separate bin full of plastic water bottles to recycle.
"I mean, the landfill is full enough isn't it, with regular garbage? So why can't we still recycle?” she said.
Another issue is that Lancaster County doesn't have its own landfill.
It sends its garbage to Lee County, and then it’s separated and a private contractor sorts the recycling and sells it.
That's now getting too expensive since there's no buyer.
The county will still collect cardboard, metal and paper, but only if it's completely clean with no food, grease or oil on it.
The city of Lancaster already ended its recycling program and picked up all the bins months ago.
York County and larger counties that do operate their own recycling centers aren't losing money but told Channel 9 they are paying attention to the situation.
It's not clear what impact the market will have on larger counties, especially those that process their recyclables in the United States.
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