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To Beat Recycling Restrictions, Bakersfield Turns Recyclables Into Compost

Jessica Felix
City of Bakersfield Solid Waste Division
Now that China is no longer accepting recyclable paper from the United States, the city of Bakersfield has begun sending mixed paper and cardboard to its composting facility.

Recycling the right materials isn’t just a local issue—it’s international. China has historically been one of the U.S.’s top buyers of recyclables, but for over a year, it’s been putting restrictions on which materials it will import.

Those changes led cities and recyclers to scramble to find markets for their recyclables. Some have launched outreach campaigns to change recycling habits, some are raising rates for waste management, and others are simply stockpiling their recyclables until they can find buyers.

The city of Bakersfield, however is trying something novel: It’s combining some of its recyclables with its compost. Listen to the audio for an interview with Kevin Barnes, solid waste director with Bakersfield’s Department of Public Works, on the latest recycling import policies out of China and what they’ve meant for Bakersfield.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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