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I-Team: China's Recycling Ban Costing North Texas Cities Millions

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A ban on foreign trash halfway around the world is costing North Texas cities millions of dollars and could soon cause your trash collection bill to spike.

China's decision last year to stop importing most waste has made recycling in the U.S., for the most part, unprofitable.

recycling (CBS11)

For the past two decades, China has imported much of the world's recyclables including millions of tons of plastics and paper from the U.S.

This year, the Chinese government put a stop to that by banning imported nonindustrial plastic waste and adding stricter standards for imported paper waste.

While North Texas cities did not directly export recyclable material overseas, China's ban on foreign waste has flooded the domestic market and caused the value of recyclable material to plummet.

Many North Texas cities used to profit by selling the material residents put in their recycling bins. Not anymore.

According to numbers provided by the City of Fort Worth, last year the city's recycling program netted $999,000.

This year Fort Worth's program is projected to lose $465,000, and next year the recycling program is expected to cost the city $1,668,000.

FW recycling cost
FW recycling cost

Other North Texas cities are also seeing a major drop in recycling revenue due to the plummeting value of recyclable material.

In the past six months, Plano has seen its revenue from recyclable materials drop more than 86 percent. Revenue for the year to projected to be down nearly $500,000.

Industry experts told the CBS11 I-Team, customers across the country may soon be asked to decide between paying more to continue recycling or have some recyclables sent to a landfill.

Jordan Fengel with the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling said any decision to cut back on recycling in Texas would be devastating for the state's economy.

Fengel said not collecting recyclables would have a $3 billion negative impact on the Texas economy and could result in the loss of 17,000 jobs.

"That's where recycling makes dollars and sense even for your average Joe citizen that may not think of recycling as a big deal," Fengel said. "It is a big deal."

recycling (CBS11)

Experts say people can help by cleaning up their recycling habits by knowing what their city accepts in the residential recycling bins.

By tossing unapproved items in the bins, the contamination level of the recyclables increases. That results in a lower market value for the material which experts say can significantly impact a city's recycling program's bottom line.

Here are the recycling guidelines for eight North Texas cities:


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