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The woman, Zhang Yin, who created "America Chung Nam" and China's "Nine Dragons Paper" recycling industry while her husband was a student in the US became wealthy while eliminating a huge part of our trash problem. en.wikipedia.org Very little of this waste ever came back to industrialized nations as cardboard boxes because the US and Japanese exporters would never have accepted this low-quality cardboard. These boxes enclosed lower-value products consumed in China or exported to Africa and other markets.
The paper and plastics contaminated with food and other substances created massive environmental pollution problems in China, so as of January China no longer accepts paper waste with any contamination.
This has left the western world with huge trash problem, with paper and plastics which were formerly sent to China now being sent to landfill.
Only a few very determined cities like Los Angeles are employing hand-sorters to separate clean paper from contaminated paper - and sorting shredding and washing plastic waste so it can be sent to China. This labor intensive process costs far more than the revenues received from the sale of the used paper and plastic.
No US paper maker wants this mixed clean paper waste as even the bleaching creates environmental problems. When you buy "recycled paper" or "paper with recycled content" the paper manufacturer is referring to the trimmed "scraps" from their paper being sent back into the slurry before it leaves their factory.
Even the more demanding label "post-consumer recycled paper" is not what you think it is. Because the "consumer" in this case is the box or paper cup manufacturer who trucks their scraps back to the paper factory.
I have a fraternity brother who founded a company which buys clean plastic and paper and adds more new plastic to extrude into that odd "plastic lumber" embossed with a wood design used in playground equipment and bus benches. It 's a profitable but marginal business and about the only potential American user for our mountains of clean waste.
China's major cities have "recycling containers" through-out their cities to give them that trendy "green look" of a modern world-class city and none of this material is recycled but all of this waste is burned or buried.