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Recent Updates

Recycling in California

The export of recyclable materials is a key component of California's recycling infrastructure. Recent changes to international policies restricting foreign imports of recyclable materials, coupled with the need to reduce contamination levels in recycling streams and a declining global market value for some recyclables, have resulted in significant challenges for the solid waste and recycling industry, local governments, and Californians.

Each year, California exports about a third of the recyclable material it collects. Historically, most of that material—particularly unsorted mixed paper and mixed plastics—went to China for processing and manufacturing into new products. China’s recent strict contamination limits and import bans have led to a stockpiling of materials at California solid waste and recycling facilities and declining markets for recyclables.

See tonnage data in table format.

International Policies Affecting Global Commodity Markets

Global policies are reshaping the flow of recyclable material around the world. See more information about why and how China and other countries have restricted recyclable imports.

State Response and Resources

In the immediate term, CalRecycle is coordinating with local enforcement agencies in order to address challenges and provide guidance around storage of processed recyclable material. In addition, the department is coordinating with local jurisdictions to share examples of local actions that address changing markets for recyclable materials. See more information about the state’s responses and available resources.

Local Response and Resources

See more information about how California jurisdictions are responding to market changes.

Timeline of Recycling Market Changes

Full timeline in text format

Additional Information on International Recycling Markets

Organizations

Research

Science Advances: The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade

Media Coverage

Please direct inquiries to exports@calrecycle.ca.gov