What happens when China rejects the world’s recycling?

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Written by: Jessica Wright

In 2016, the United States imported $462.6 billion in goods from China. When shipped back, many of the containers were filled with scrap and waste, America’s sixth largest export to China. Paper and cardboard from the U.S. sourced 24% of the 63.3 million tons of waste paper pulp produced by China in 2016.

Looking ahead

China has been the world’s largest paper recycler. It seems they are about to slow that pace. Last July, they announced restrictions on imports of unsorted paper, plastic, and 22 other categories of solid waste. Inspections of recovered paper have increased at their ports-of-entry, where a strict contamination limit of 0.3% is being enforced.

Chinese government sources cite environmental concerns. The dirty and hazardous material, when mixed with solid waste, contributes to environmental pollution.

Business impact

Implications of these new policies may seem good to some U.S. companies, horrific to others. From any domestic perspective, the impact is substantial.

  • Shipping companies are seeing reduced demand for ‘backhaul’, space formerly sold on returning vessels. In response, those companies offer substantial discounts to stem a potential $5 billion annual loss.
  • Recycling services must find buyers other than China for the materials they collect.
  • Manufacturers who use recycled content anticipate lower costs for the abundant scrap metal, paper, plastic, and other materials no longer shipped overseas.
Impact on the environment

According to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), China’s restrictions will send more recyclables to incinerators or landfills. To limit this impact, anything likely to contaminate recycled materials must be identified. Municipal programs can identify the contaminants. As businesses and citizens keep the contaminants out of recycling bins, the result will be higher-value recyclables, less waste, and less pollution.

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The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

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Business and government organizations today are confronted by threat categories that range from drought to flood, from fire to hurricane, and extend globally to pandemics and sea level rise. Threat categories are broad and diverse, but ecoPreserve and collaborating organizations design resiliency tools for specific local context.

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In response to ever-increasing environmental, sociopolitical, and public health challenges, we advocate for and participate in assessment and planning actions that directly address disaster preparations, recovery activities, infrastructure improvements, and smart building/city design.

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Often an event is held for skill and knowledge development, but some needs of an organization or community are better resolved through collaboration to identify requirements and to design solutions. A range of Disaster Resilience workshops are available for solutions planning and development, as well as for training and communication.

Disaster Planning and Recovery Workshops

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Facility Condition Report

The report is prepared in accordance with the recommendations of ASTM E2018-15, Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments. This is a partial list of contents:

  • PHYSICAL CONDITION
    • General condition of the building, grounds, and appurtenances
    • Physical deficiencies, their significance, and suggested remedies
    • Photographs
    • Safety issues observed
  • INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPREAD POTENTIAL
  • OPPORTUNITIES
    • Potential operating efficiencies
    • Electricity and water use reductions
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  • ORDER OF MAGNITUDE RENOVATION BUDGET
    • Recommended interior finishes
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Risk Mitigation Improvements

  • IAQ
    • Airflow
    • Temperature and humidity
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC EQUIPMENT
    • Settings
    • Conditions
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  • FLOORPLAN
    • Traffic patterns
  • FURNISHINGS
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Interior Elements

  • Foundation
  • Building frame and roof
  • Structural elements
    • Floors, walls, ceilings
    • Access and egress
    • Vertical transportation (escalators and elevators)
  • HVAC equipment and ductwork
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Grounds and Appurtenances

  • Façades or curtainwall
  • Topography
  • Storm water drainage
  • Paving, curbing, and parking
  • Flatwork
  • Landscaping
  • Recreational facilities
Here's how to request further information. Thank you for reaching out!

AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

An OPTIMIZED Assessment

Certified Sustainability Consultants on a facility assessment team can discover ways to lower energy costs. Their understanding of HVAC equipment suitability and condition along with the specifics of LED lighting retrofits can provide offsets for needed investments in upgrades and replacements.

Knowledge of water systems can bring further savings while averting water waste. It can all be part of an assessment which might otherwise overlook water fixtures and irrigation schedules.

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A thorough facility assessment finds the issues - on the surface or below - which have a potential negative impact on the building. That brings the facility to meet building codes. Beyond that, the assessment proactively addresses the deficiencies not covered by code.

The occupants of a building benefit as the assessment reveals conditions having a potential impact on their health or safety. The assessment must not overlook those conditions, nor fail to consider the frequency and duration of occupant visits.