MISSOULA – Pacific Steel and Recycling announced this week that they will stop accepting plastics recycling on May 7.
This comes after months of changes in overseas markets that have dropped the value of these recycled products.
For the past twenty years, Pacific Steel and Recycling has offered free plastics recycling, but have struggled in recent months to make the service pencil out, according to Manager Mason Mikkola.
This problem comes from, in part, international markets in China that recently cracked down on the quality of recycled plastic commodities that they will import, he said. China has reduced the level of impurities that they will accept in the bales of plastic they will receive. Those impurities come from contamination in recycling bins.
Staff at another Missoula recycling and waste management company, Republic Services, said that these new restrictions began in January and that they have dealt with contamination in their recycling bins as well.
Now, people in Missoula and elsewhere are dealing with more limited options for plastics recycling.
Department of Environmental Quality Materials Manager Dusti Johnson said that many rural communities across Montana are also struggling to maintain their plastics recycling programs, some closing them down entirely due to the cost of transporting them to the nearest city with materials processing infrastructure.
“The biggest difficulty is the quality. If it was just pure one grade of plastic bottles, whether its PET bottles or milk jugs, that stuff would be pretty easy to market, because there are other markets than China, but when it gets co-mingled, that is what is difficult,” Mikkola said.