Due to drastic changes in the market, namely China’s buying practices, recyclables generated in Santa Barbara County — including glass, metals, PET 1 and 2 plastics, and paper — is now yielding about $6 million annually, a $2 million drop from years past due to the decreased value of paper. China has clamped down on how much it accepts and insists on higher-quality materials than it used to. “Our mantra used to be when in doubt, put it in the recycling bin,” said Leslie Wells, the county’s recycling czar. “Now it’s got to be, ‘Throw it out.’” Gone are the days when greasy pizza boxes could pass muster. Certain plastics that once had value in the world market no longer do. A new public education program is looming, Wells said.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected on August 17, 2018, to reflect that all recyclables, not just paper, currently bring the county $6 million.