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CoastLine: Recycling Market Struggles Mean Plastics 3-7 Go To Landfill

Sonoco Recycling
A list of acceptable curbside and drop-off material for recycling in the Cape Fear region

China’s ban on 24 types of trash imports is changing the recycling business and waste management in the United States.  The new policy on what China will accept limits the type of plastic and unsorted paper recycling collectors are taking, while a new threshold for acceptable contamination sits at 0.5%.   That’s a significant change from a previous acceptable impurity level of 5%.  Some officials say this new standard is next to impossible to achieve.

On an earlier edition of CoastLine in June, we explored how local environmental management officials are working to divert waste from the landfill.  On this edition, we get an update on New Hanover County’s composting initiative, which launched its public phase July 1st, but we also take a deeper dive into the recycling market – and how national and international changes are affecting the Cape Fear region.  

We get answers to the questions you have about what’s recyclable, what’s not, and why your good intentions might be sending a whole load of recyclable material to the landfill instead. 


Brian Shea, Sonoco Recycling Plant Manager for New Hanover and Onslow Counties

Joe Suleyman, Director of New Hanover County’s Environmental Management Department




Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.
Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR