Green Box Sites Will No Longer Accept Plastic, Tin for Recycling

Change is likely temporary as the recycling markets adjust to major move by China

By Molly Priddy
Green-box site. Beacon file photo

Starting Feb. 15, Flathead County will no longer be accepting plastics or tin at its green-box recycling sites, though the change is likely not permanent.

“We don’t know how long this is going to go,” Flathead County Public Works Director Dave Prunty said of the recycling changes. “We hope something changes.”

The move comes on the heels of China’s announcement that, as of Jan. 1, it would no longer take certain imported wastes for recycling, including waste plastics. In 2016, China processed at least half of the world’s exports in waste metals, plastics and paper. America exported 16 million tons of such waste to China in 2016.

Prunty said Valley Recycling, the company with which the county contracts for recycling services at the green-box sites, hasn’t been able to move a bale of waste plastics onto the market in four months.

“If it can’t go to market, that isn’t recycling,” Prunty said. “You’ve got to be able to move the product.”

County green-box sites still accept aluminum cans, cardboard and paper waste, Prunty said.

Recycling can confound people, Prunty said, and the plastics bins, which are supposed to only accept plastic types 1 and 2, were full of everything, not just the plastics the county can recycle, including human waste and hypodermic needles.

Prunty said the restrictions go into effect Feb. 15.

“It could change in the future,” he said. “Americans are very resilient, and if something doesn’t work in China, hopefully somewhere within our shores, somebody will get to the point where we can move some product.”

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