San Francisco's Recology robots helping out during recycling crisis

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Recology prides itself on having the most advanced recycling facility in North America, but even they've had to step up their process.

"China, formerly the largest buyer of bales of recycled plastic, is no longer buying them," said Recology's spokesperson Robert Reed.

RELATED: Union City recycling center struggles to find buyers amid China trade war

Changes in China have lowered the company's earnings.

According to the info provided by Recology-- in 2017 a bale of mixed paper would sell for $110 a ton now, $20 ton. In 2017 Cardboard use to sell for $180 a ton now $75 a ton.

Close to 4,000 tons of recyclables are processed in their facility every week. Previously, China would buy material with contamination rates of eight-percent-- that's no longer the case.

"It's a buyers' market now. The companies that receive the bales of plastic have dictated that the bales have one-percent or less impurities," said Reed.

RELATED: Closing of recycling centers putting pressure on Bay Area centers, hundreds wait in Union City

To see how Recology is limiting those impurities we climbed up to the heart of their facility.

In the last three years, they've invested $20 million on specific sorting machines.
Luz Pena: Would you say that those robots are saving you at this point?

Robert Reed: "The robots are helping to keep us in the game. Helping us produce cleaner to meet the demands of the market place."

Now that everything is sorted, a group of senators are proposing a long term goal to cut plastic waste by 75-percent by the year 2030 with bills, AB1080 and SB54.

RELATED: Behind the Scenes: How recycling in San Francisco works

"We are asking you to take sustainability into account, reusability, recyclability, composability when it comes to packaging products," said Principal Co-author Senator Ben Allen.

Meanwhile, Recology and other recycling centers are having to sell to more than one country like Malaysia and Indonesia.

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