How the China Recycling Ban Changes Commercial Recycling

When you toss a plastic bottle into the recycling bin, where do you think it goes? Most people picture it going to a sorting facility, probably near a garbage dump, where it gets turned into something useful. But if you’re a commercial property owner or facility manager, you know recycling isn’t so cut-and-dried. When it comes to commercial recycling, you’re probably more informed than the average person, but your tenants may not understand recycling until you educate them. After China’s recycling ban went into effect in 2018, you probably found yourself battling with commercial recycling changes and charges. The industry is in transition, and here’s what you need to know about how the recycling ban changes commercial recycling.

Commercial recycling background

For decades recyclable materials have been an exported product in the United States. Other countries, with China being the most common, purchased our waste and recycled materials on their own soil. There have always been ebbs and flows in the market, as you’ve probably seen in the course of your career as a property owner or manager. It should come as no surprise commercial recycling has always been big business, and it will continue to be that way with new regulations and industry changes.

The ban changes everything

China took on much of the world’s recyclable waste, but in July 2017 that came to a screeching halt. If you haven’t read the details, China told the World Trade Organization that the country no longer wanted all the foreign waste coming to its shores. A large part of the problem was contamination that made recycling difficult, resource intensive, and expensive. This caused a scramble in the U.S. because recycling is mandated in many parts of the country. Each year, more than 91 million tons of materials are recycled or composted. And that’s a lot of waste to manage.

To limit the amount of garbage heading into the country, China placed stringent demands on the condition of materials they accept. Unfortunately, most commercial waste companies around the world have found these demands nearly impossible to meet. As a result, recyclables accepted into China—especially plastics—have dropped by as much as 99%.

Recycling solutions

In the short term, you and your tenants are paying the higher cost of shipping and sorting recyclables. But solutions are starting to emerge.  More than a billion dollars is being invested to re-open, expand, or build recycling processing plants in the U.S. Ironically, it is Chinese companies doing the bulk of investment in recycling plants in the U.S. This step will improve the quality of materials that are shipped to China and transformed into new products. In the long term, this may lead to price reductions in the cost of recycling. More domestic recycling facilities means lower shipping costs over time.

Have a plan

So, what about now? New recycling facilities aren’t yet up and running, and in some parts of the country recyclable materials still end up in landfills or incinerators. Before the ban, the U.S. produced 250 million tons of waste produced every year, and 40% of it went to China.

Many of these materials now head to incinerators within the United States. These incinerators often do not have pollution controls in place. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and other pollutants enter the air around these incinerators. It’s worth asking your waste provider where your materials are ending up. And speaking of plastics, in the next 10 years around 111 million tons of plastics will need a new disposal option because of the ban. Even though new processing plants are coming online, it could be years before the recycling market stabilizes.

What’s the solution for commercial recycling?

As a property manager or owner, your waste service vendor may have provided you with an interim plan. Perhaps you’ve even suspended recycling. If you’re concerned about where your commercial recycling is shipped, now is a good time to reach out and ask where and how your recyclables are managed.

Since the industry is in transition, waste disposal and commercial recycling services need a closer look. Ask if your recyclables are routed to landfills or incineration. That’s a good first step. But now is also a good time to take a closer look at your overall commercial waste service and contract.

You may find it’s time to review the details and reevaluate your contract based on commercial recycling changes.

We’re here to help.

Investment in commercial recycling plants here in the U.S. will create a solution, but it may take time. At ZTERS, we stay on top of industry trends and we’re proud to partner with property owners and facility managers across the U.S. Call us to find out how we can help you find a commercial waste and recycling solution that works for you across all your locations.

When is a waste broker good for business?

Have you ever calculated the real cost of waste service across your facility portfolio? Yes, you get vendor invoices every month. But chances are, you may not have audited the real cost of your commercial waste management. In going through your day-to-day operations, you need to maximize profit, boost efficiency, and manage a seemingly unending list of other responsibilities that need to be done. So, how often do you get a chance to look at your commercial waste services? This is where some waste brokers can help maximize your efficiency.

What is a waste broker?

Think about how many waste-related vendors you use. If you’re a typical commercial, industrial or multi-family property manager, you probably have several locations and multiple vendors providing waste and recycling services. That’s a lot of phone calls and multiple points of contact.

Waste brokers will connect you with local vendors, and sure, that saves you some phone calls. But after that, you’re still on your own to manage the monthly invoicing and support issues with all those vendors. ZTERS waste solutions goes a step beyond and offers you a dedicated account manager and single point of contact across all your facilities nationwide.

Over ten years, ZTERS established a network of more than 14,000 nationwide vendors. We’ve been vetting local vendors across the country for years, and we work with the most reliable providers. That means we provide you with one complete waste management package no matter how many locations you manage. And you get one invoice.

Consider how many hours it takes to make sure you’re getting the best rates on waste disposal services. You’d have to contact every hauler in every neighborhood to find a dependable provider at a fair rate. ZTERS does that legwork for you. We help property owners and managers find the most reliable, cost-efficient haulers in the country, and we serve as your continual point of contact to solve any service issues that come up.

How does ZTERS save you money?

Unlike a traditional waste broker, we take service a step further. Your business is our business, so our dedicated account manager starts to understand your trash generation across your portfolio. From there, we are able to audit, or “right size” your service to make sure you’re using the correct size dumpster size and pickup schedule for your specific facilities.

Think about it: when you have a weekly pickup and your dumpster is only half full, that’s wasted money each and every week. The same is true if you’re paying overages every month because you’re overflowing your dumpster each week. Let us analyze your waste and right-size your system.

Since 2009, we have been helping businesses of all sizes with their waste solutions. We’re family owned and operated, and our customers become part of the family.

Fair. Simple. Reliable. That’s our motto, and we want to save you time and money.

Trash is never going away – and hopefully, neither is your business. Waste removal is an expense that your portfolio will incur for the rest of its lifetime. And an inefficient trash system leaves your time and money on the table. Call us to handle the trash while you handle business.

Commercial Waste Service: Expectations vs. Reality

Whether you manage one or multiple commercial facilities, chances are you’ve had some pain points around your permanent commercial waste service. If you manage multiple sites, you may be dealing with multiple vendors, multiple invoices and multiple points of contact each time you call or email. And with the 2018 changes in recycling processing, managing recyclables adds another layer of research and responsibility. As if you don’t have enough to do in your day?

Does the reality of your service live up to the expectations you had when you signed that contract? Or do you now get a handful of invoices, a slew of hidden fees, and a different person answering your call each time you have a question? That’s not uncommon. Here are some things to look for when sourcing your next permanent commercial waste provider. Keeping these things in mind will help make sure your expectations meet reality when it’s time to have your garbage hauled away.

Do you have customized service?

Your property is unique. You have a certain amount of space for your commercial dumpster, and you have a specific workflow to accommodate. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a warehouse, a strip mall or a high-rise building, your trash solution has to fit your available space and traffic flow. Did you receive a custom solution? Were you offered compactor options? Compactors can save money by reducing the number of pickups. Plus, there are several types and sizes that may work with your facility. Your commercial waste service provider should take the time to get to know your property and your people to find the most economical solution.

Ask about centralized billing

Have you ever signed a contract for waste collection at multiple locations and found out later that you’d be invoiced for each location individually? It happens. And good luck dealing with accounting if an invoice is wrong. (And, yes, you’ll have to check all those invoices individually to make sure you’re properly billed.) Your commercial waste service should provide easy, centralized billing no matter how many locations are on your account. Don’t wait until you’re already in a long-term contract to find out your invoicing wasn’t what you expected.

How much does commercial waste service cost?

Does your facility dispose of hazardous waste? What about recyclables, pharmaceuticals, and occasional bulky items? Did your waste provider explain any additional fees that would be added to your invoice? Do they understand special municipal fees or ordinances in your area? As part of your initial consultation, make sure your account manager understands the reality of your garbage. They’ll be able to research additional fees and help you anticipate whether you’ll have occasional overages and what that would cost. They can also help you decide if a compactor is right for your facility and what size and type would work best for you.

Demand quality customer service

When you talk to a commercial waste provider and ask for a quote, find out if you’ll have a dedicated account manager. One point of contact when you have a problem saves time and helps you build a personal relationship with someone you can trust. Companies that provide dedicated account managers tend to invest in their relationships. Account managers take ownership of their accounts and strive to provide excellent support. They have time to learn about your business. This ensures your facilities have the proper equipment and pickup schedules to stay clean, safe, and garbage free.

At ZTERS, we offer permanent waste solutions for commercial buildings nationwide. Our dedicated account managers make sure you have exactly what you need to meet your commercial waste needs. After all, your garbage collection reality should meet your expectations. Reliable service, transparent pricing, and no hidden fees. Contact us today for a free quote.