TheNewLens - The world’s largest economies may do well to follow Taiwan in making strides towards a circular economy.

On Dec. 31, 2017, China banned the importation of foreign waste. Until then, the United States and Europe quietly shipped a majority of their recyclables – plastic waste, mixed paper, metals, even cardboard – to China’s interior, where small local factories sorted, melted, and resold them as base materials to other companies. But no longer.

The result of China’s National Sword Policy has been a sharp and steep decline in the value and price of recyclables, leaving U.S. recycling centers reeling.

States like California, which once exported more than 60 percent of their recyclables to China, now face an expensive dual burden of adhering to strict domestic waste management laws and international recycling quality standards stricter than those of China. Many U.S. municipalities with small budgets are questioning whether the business of recycling is even worth it. Some are even considering cutting their recycling programs entirely.

With no stable domestic market for the purchase and reuse of recyclables in the U.S., the material is now being stockpiled in warehouses. But this time-tethered solution is limited by storage space and strict health-hazard policies, leading most waste collection companies to make the difficult decision to dump recyclables in landfills – a cheap fix for a troubled industry facing price volatility and fallout from their biggest buyer.