Framingham Recycles: Global Markets, Local Impacts

Editor’s Note: This is a weekly column by the Recycling Coordinator for the City of Framingham. Residents can submit questions to Recycling Coordinator Stephen Sarnosky via SOURCE at


By Stephen Saranosky


FRAMINGHAM – You may have heard in the news about restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government on imports of recyclable materials – known as China National Sword – have dramatically affected recycling in Massachusetts and beyond. Tighter end-market specifications for recovered paper and plastics have led to higher processing costs and lower revenues, particularly for paper and now cardboard.

Like the stock market, recyclables have always been subject to market fluctuations. China’s 2018 National Sword policy imposed restrictions on the contamination levels it would accept from imported recyclable material.

Accepted contamination levels went from practical non existent to just .05 percent or less. The result is what we see today; municipalities having to pay substantially more for the disposal of recyclable material.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) recognizes that fluctuating markets continue to have local consequences, and to the degree that the agency can help municipalities mitigate these impacts, it is doing what it can.

Working together, our state and local governments can weather the current storm and maintain the recycling infrastructure that they have, for many years, worked so hard to build. One example of this is MassDEP’s “RecycleSmart” initiative.

This initiative has been implemented here in Framingham and is know as Recollect “Waste Wizard” and is located on DPW’s Sanitation Division website.

Cities and towns across Massachusetts, including Framingham, are feeling the impacts of both China National Sword and regional market disruptions – such as the closure of a large recycled-content glass bottle manufacturing plant in Milford.

The City of Framingham continues to work closely with our recycling processor to get the best possible prices for recyclable materials.

Overall, recycling has helped cities and towns reduce their disposal costs, boosted our state’s economy, and most importantly improved the environment around us.

Keep on recycling, your efforts matter!

Recycling Q&A

One of our readers asked a question regarding juice boxes. “I’d like to know if I should put my juice boxes in recycling or trash? I’m referring to the ones that are cardboard and are have a waxy material covering. For example, a Tropicana juice box.”

Paper juice boxes, also referred to as juice and milk cartons were once accepted in your recycling cart.

This is no longer the case. MassDEP, along with recycling processors, has determined that these items have no recyclable value.

The packaging has high levels of contamination and costs associated with their remanufacture.

Typically, paper juice and milk cartons have liquids still in them when recycled.

When baled, the bundles become soggy and unrecyclable by the time it would reach its processing destination.

Throw juice and milk cartons in with your refuse.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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