Export slowdown means more trash in U.S.

December 12, 2008 6:40:29 PM PST
From big screen TV's to toys for tiny tots, consumers are being conservative, even two weeks before Christmas.

"Oh definitely on a budget, you have family to take care of, other things to take care of definitely staying on a budget," shopper Michelle Boudreaux said.

Less spending means fewer cargo containers coming into the Port of Oakland. Imports there are down more than 6 percent from last year. Much of that reflects a slowdown in manufacturing in China. The World Bank recently slashed china's growth from near double digits to 7.5 percent next year.

Mario Belotti has been teaching economics for five decades. He says 7.5 percent growth may sound good to the U.S., but for China it is a near crisis.

"Chinese officers were saying they have overcapacity in all of their industries, which means that their exports are falling," Santa Clara University economics professor Mario Belotti said.

That means trash is literally piling up in other places, like the United States. That is because recycled materials here are used in making and packaging China's products.

Two months ago, Green Waste Recovery was getting $160 dollars per ton for its recycled paper products. Last month, the price had dropped to zero.

"We typically sell that commodity to China for reuse and that's one of the markets that has taken the most significant hit," Green Waste spokesperson Emily Hanson said.

No matter what the glut, Green Waste says recycled materials will not go into the landfill and are being stored until prices rise. In Santa Clara County at least, the extra costs will not be passed onto consumers.

"All of those fees and the fee structure are locked in for five to seven years so residents won't see anything during this economic downturn," Santa Clara County Waste Management District spokesperson Zachary DeVine said.

If you want to use trash as an indicator of global economic health, the price for recycled paper products has inched up from last month to $35 per ton today.


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