Recyclables could end up at the dump if they're not cleaned up

A Chinese ban on most foreign recycling material is leaving some Canadian municipalities with stockpiles of papers and plastics, much of which may eventually end up in the dump.

Items used to be sold to China for repurposing, but now that's changed

A general view shows a recycling yard on the outskirts of Beijing, China, August 23, 2016. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A Chinese ban on most foreign recycling material is leaving some Canadian municipalities with stockpiles of papers and plastics, much of which could eventually end up in the dump.

The ban is also driving down the revenues cities make off their recyclables because the competition to find a company able to take the materials is stiff.

"The world has basically been sending this material to China ... we probably send 60 per cent of our blue box materials to China and that's challenged now under the new regulations," said Rob Cook, CEO of the Ontario Waste Management Association.

Although the ban didn't take full effect until Dec. 31, 2017, many Chinese companies stopped accepting foreign recycling materials months ago, leaving some cities with stockpiles of flattened cardboard and crushed plastic without anywhere to send it.

Windsor is ahead of the game.- Rob Cook, CEO of the Ontario Waste Management Association

"I think it's based on the fact that the Chinese economy has evolved and it's looking for more acceptable materials, cleaner products in its manufacturing sector," said Cook, adding that many of our recycled products are not sorted properly.

He said that each municipality has its own guidelines for what can be recycled, and many people don't follow those rules. 

"Windsor is ahead of the game," said Cook, explaining that we have a "two-tiered" system meaning that our paper and cardboard items get separated from glass and aluminum right off the bat. That makes it easier for sorting down the line. 

"I'm just concerned that at some point disposal becomes the only option," said Cook. 

For example in Toronto, recyclables are being held in storage because there is too much to process or ship out, said Cook.

With files from The Canadian Press