China imports more recyclable goods than any other country in the world. But earlier this year, China stopped accepting a long list of imported plastic and paper waste, and implemented much stricter guidelines for what it's willing to take in.
The dramatic policy change is part of a national campaign to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, but China's decision to no longer be the trash collector for the rest of the world is causing major problems for U.S. waste processing operations.
Across the U.S., recyclers had been accustomed to sending major portions of their paper and plastic to China, but now they're scrambling to find other takers.
Already, more than a dozen states have started to giving companies waivers to throw out recyclables, including Massachusetts, where more than 4,000 tons of single-stream recyclables and more than 10,000 tons of glass have been sent to landfills.
VICE News traveled to Massachusetts to visit a processor that used to have an average of a few dozen one-ton cubes of recyclables sitting around and now has thousands.
This segment originally aired June 19, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.