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

UNION CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- In our efforts to build a better Bay Area we are tackling the topic of recycling.

With the closing of California's biggest chain of recycling centers and the trade war with China, many local centers are feeling the pressure.

In this warehouse with piles of sorted recyclables, Tri-Ced is accessible to 330,000 people a year, but now they are holding on by a thread.

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

"We are not able to sell anything. We have to pay to get rid of our paper, our 'unders,' which is what comes off the backside of the line, our three colors of mixed glass. We're having to go to third world countries which we don't feel good about," said Tri-Ced's CEO Richard Valle.

The majority of the material inside this facility is mixed paper, which is also the hardest material to market. In the past, China used to buy 90% of what you see here from the United States, but now with the trade war they buy close to 0%.

"What we are faced with is finding other locations that can accept those recyclables," said Union City's Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci.

In July, Union City tried to buy Tri-Ced some time by charging their residents an extra $2 per month to keep the center afloat. But, now with other centers closing, the influx of recyclables entering this center has increased and they only have enough budget to stay open until March.

RELATED: California's largest recycling center chain RePlanet closes all locations

"I think it would make sense just to have a conversation with at least the mayors in Alameda County because we have mayor's conference where we can discuss this issue because it is an issue that impacts all of our cities," said Mayor Dutra-Vernaci.

With the influx of more material coming in, recycling companies like Tri-Ced are running out of time and space. So now, they're having to pay $90 a ton to send their material to Los Angeles to be processed a second time.

We asked Tri-Ced's CEO, "What's the next step?"

He told us, "The next step is for the state of California to create infrastructure not just for Tri-Ced but for the entire industry so we can move this material and keep it domestic."
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