Is This the End of Recycling in Fresno?

Is This the End of Recycling in Fresno?
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By Mike Rhodes

You sort your glass, paper, plastic and aluminum, drop it in the blue recycling container and push it to your curb for pickup. We all assume everything gets sorted and made into new products, right? Well, that might not be the case.

In cities across America, the material from recycling containers is not going where you would expect. Instead, it is going into landfills and put into storage with the hope that one day there will be a market for the material. Some waste management companies are even burning these items, creating energy, but also fouling our air.

What has brought about this crisis? The short answer is that China is no longer accepting this country’s recycled waste. About a year ago, China’s policy changed and it is now accepting only about 1% of what it took before.  

The shipping containers that brought us inexpensive items from China used to go back filled with recycled material to be made into new items. The sorting of items and removing the non-recyclables, which is too expensive to do in the United States, was done in China until the economics of hand sorting changed the situation.

The question is, what is the city of Fresno and private companies operating in this area doing with what we are sorting, dropping into our recycling containers and placing on our curbsides each week?

That story will be in the next issue of the Community Alliance newspaper.

(Author’s note: The content herein is based on articles in the New York Times and The Atlantic and coverage on National Public Radio.)


Mike Rhodes is an independent journalist and the writer of Dispatches from the War Zone: Homelessness in Fresno 2002–2015. Contact him at


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