Recycling in many Missouri towns may stop because of China’s shift

O'FALLON, Mo. — Recycling could become a lot more tedious if the current global market doesn't change.  Single stream recycling, where you can put everything in one container on your curb, is going away in O'Fallon, Missouri on October 29th.

"The part changing is paper and cardboard. In the past we were single stream community and could put all that into a container, now we have to keep that separate," said O'Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle.

Paper and cardboard products will have to be separated at home and dropped off at their environmental services building. This is called dual recycling.

"People are not going to do that.  They won't take the time to make that special trip over there each week. There just going to throw it away," said O'Fallon resident Rick Vandiver.

The company that would take recycling items from O'Fallon is leaving St. Louis. Tom Drabelle says they see the global shift that's taking place caused by China.

"Over the last few years China has changed its policies and they've essentially closed the boundaries to single-stream products," said Tom Drabelle.

There is thought that China, who accepted more single stream recycling than any country in the world, is retaliating against tariffs leveled against them by the United States.  What's happening in O'Fallon is expected to trickle down elsewhere when contracts with recyclers run out and they have nowhere to sell it.

"We are looking at options to try and make it better moving forward," said Tom Drabelle.

Residents like Rick Vandiver are willing to pay extra to keep recycling like it is, but the city says that would only be a short-term option because there won't be anywhere to take single stream recycling soon.

They have it worse in Pacific, Missouri. A family run company called Hueffmeier can't afford to pick up recycling anymore because of the same price problem. Now residents in that area have to drive to Burnsville to recycle.