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Recycling Industry Grapples With Export Pressures, Near-Full Landfills

Annie Ropeik

Rising costs and limited markets are putting pressure on the recycling business in New Hampshire and the rest of the region.

At the Northeast Resource Recovery Association's conference in Manchester this week, China is high on the list of worries.

The country has stopped accepting much of the scrap it used to import from places like America. That's left a lot of trash with nowhere to go – and in the Northeast, landfills are quickly filling up.

It's raising the cost of recycling and moving waste, and creating new demand for more outlets for excess material.

Jonathan Hixon works for New York-based ReEnergy, which has two facilities in New Hampshire. They process construction scrap and other waste for use as biomass energy and in other products. 

"We have no problems with the materials that are coming in,” Hixon says. “It's just a question of pricing it right so you can get the materials back out."

He expects it could be years before more recycling facilities open up in the Northeast to fill gaps left by China.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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