Trade war between China and U.S. impacts recycling - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Trade war between China and U.S. impacts recycling

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Recycling companies in southern Illinois see their profits drop while the U.S. and China hit each other with tariffs.

The U.S. produces millions of tons of recyclable waste each year and prior to this year, China bought a sizeable portion of it.

The percentage depends on the product, but anywhere from 30-to-45 percent of materials went to the country.

"Now, my understanding is they hardly buy anything," Tasis Karayiannis, co-owner of the Southern Recycling Center in Carbondale said.

Karayiannis said a series of new restrictions China placed on imports means his company isn't making as much money as it used to.  

"When a buyer like that is out of the market, it creates a big glut," Karayiannis said. "And the next step is the prices drop."

China stopped buying recycled plastic at the beginning of the year and it's scaling back the amount of other recycled material it's buying over the next couple years.

Karayiannis said there's a variety of reasons for that: there isn't as great of a need compared to a few years ago, there's growing environmental concerns and there's ongoing tension between China's president and the White House.

"We cannot make any money and also, we have material that nobody wants so we notified the public about certain things that we cannot recycle anymore," Karayiannis said.

That includes plastic bottles rated No. 3-7 and also plastic bags.

Companies in bigger cities have had to stop taking more material, simply due to the amount they receive, but Karayiannis said southern Illinois doesn't have nearly as much material to sort through.

"So my hope is that things calm down, that material is cleaner and that the markets pick up some," Karayiannis said.

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