The drop-off in Chinese demand, and the lack of immediately accessible alternatives, could hit American cities hard, says Quartz’s contact in the industry. “Cities are going to have a huge problem on their hands because they don’t know what to do with this stuff,” she says. “They have made commitments saying it’s recycled—but they didn’t say how or where.”
Not that the US couldn’t open new plants. But sorting trash to be recycled is labor-intensive, and therefore expensive. (The US’s failure to sort it properly is why China is turning US trash away.) And while optical sorters exist, those are expensive too. And either will raise costs for US cities.
At the same time, the U.S. government is spending a ridiculous amount of money on various welfare programs. According to various sources, around 110,000,000 Americans receive some sort of welfare from the government. The total cost, to taxpayers, is staggering. Since we’re spending huge amounts of money in charity, and since we now have a huge need for unskilled labor (sorting recyclables), wouldn’t it make sense to put some of those people to work doing the sorting and processing? If they’re physically incapable of working for 8 hours, make them work for 2 or 3 hours a day. If they can’t stand up, let them sit down as they work. If they lack the mental capacity to follow complex instructions, have them do the simple, repetitive, work.
If somebody objects that making people work for their money is “slavery”, then I’d like to know what you call it when the rest of us are forced to work, four and a half months, for the government.