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Cities that burn or throw away recycling in the US




If you throw your plastic bottles in the recycling bin, it may feel like you’ve done your part to conserve the environment. That effort could quickly be undone depending on where you live.

As recycling becomes more expensive for local governments, many cities have resorted to incinerating recyclable goods or disposing of them in landfills. To understand how cities got to this point, it’s helpful to trace the path of recycling in the US.

Read more: Staggering photos show one small town covered in 19,000 tons of plastic waste

Prior to 2018, most of the country’s recycled waste was shipped to China, where it was converted into new uses like shoes, gadgets, and plastic products. That all changed on January 1, 2018, when China officially banned the import of “foreign garbage,” a category that includes 24 types of recyclable and solid waste.

Though China previously sorted through waste to separate out recyclable materials, officials determined that there was too much trash mixed in to make it worth their while. Now Malaysia, which became a prime dumping ground for the world’s plastic in the wake of China’s ban, faces a similar issue.

In May, the nation announced that it would send 3,000 metric tons of plastic waste (or over 6.6 million pounds) back to exporting countries such as the US. “If you ship to Malaysia, we will return it back without mercy,” Malaysia’s environment minister, Yeo Bee Yin, told Reuters.

This leaves US recycling companies without even fewer places to send their heaps of cardboard and plastic. The New York Times reports that recycling companies have started charging cities up to four times more to accept recyclable goods.

Today, dozens of US cities — including a few major ones — are treating their recyclable items as trash. Take a look at the places where your recycling isn’t actually getting recycled.

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