Starting next month, Flathead County will no longer accept plastics or steel can recycling. The change stems from market forces in China.
China used to buy a big chunk of recycling from America, including most of the Flathead Valley’s plastic, but on January 1, China banned scrap waste imports. The recycled milk jugs and soup cans it had been accepting were just too dirty or even hazardous to bring into the country.
That means that plastic recycling in the Flathead Valley will end on February 15.
David Prunty is Flathead County’s public works director.
“We want to run a program so folks can do it, and that’s our hope, that we can, at some point or another, start this back up. But right now there's no market,” Prunty says.
As a result, recyclers will need to toss plastics and steel cans in the trash. Prunty adds the county landfill will not be burdened by the additional waste. Cardboard, paper products and aluminum cans will still be accepted at greenboxes and recycling facilities valley-wide.
Recycling facilities in Missoula County will continue accepting #1 and #2 plastics and steel cans.
Prunty says the two companies that contract with Flathead County to run its recycling program have had a hard time selling off recycled waste for months.
Punty says contaminated items, like human excrement and used hypodermic needles, were popping up in the Valley’s green bins. In fact, last year recycling boxes were almost half filled with garbage.