The face of recycling changed in early 2018 when China stopped taking most of the world’s plastic waste and the ripple effects are now being felt in Anchorage.

On Thursday, Anchorage Recycling Coordinator Suzanna Caldwell announced that number one plastic clam shells could no longer be placed in curbside recycling. The reason? Without China, there is no other market for the low grade plastic.

“We just can no longer accept those,” Caldwell said. “There’s no viable market for those materials to be recycled anywhere in the United States or internationally.”

Plastic clam shells, like the type that hold fruit or takeout salads, are just one of the things recycled in Anchorage that used to end up in China. When that market closed, the profit margin for recyclables plummeted worldwide.

Caldwell said the cost to process curbside recyclables has increased considerably in recent months. Based on those numbers, she estimates it will cost the city an additional $40,000 this year. The money will be taken from the city's recycling budget.

Despite the increased costs Solid Waste Services plans to continue offering curbside recycling. Laurel Andrews, a representative for Alaska Waste, said the private company will also continue the service, which includes about 15,000 of their customers.

 Caldwell said keeping material out of the landfill is reason enough to continue recycling.

“The landfill is a finite resource and we have about 30 years of life left on it," she said. "We want to keep it open for as long as possible and extend that as much as possible. And the best way to do that is to keep materials out, whether that’s through waste reduction or through recycling.”

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