At the end of 2017, and after 25 years of importing half of the world’s recyclable material of plastics and paper and turning them into useful materials, China announced:
“We Don’t Want Your Plastic Anymore”
The Chinese changed the rules on the importation of waste and instead the normal 5% percent impurities, now they will only accept less than 1%. This was a hard feat to meet with no knowledge of the impact of such an announcement on the major exporters from US, Canada and Europe.
The new rule took effect on January 2018, it took these many industrial countries by surprise who had no alternative plan. Therefore, tons of plastic waste were piling in many different facilities like landfills and docks.
Adina Renee Adler, senior director of international relations and international affairs for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries had a frustrating statement: “They didn’t give the world a whole lot of time to get ready for this.”
In defense to their sudden announcing the Chinese officials complained to the World Trade Organization by saying:” Large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously.”
It has been a wake call for China also. Because since 1980s they were the world’s largest importer
Since the 1980s, China has been the world’s largest importer of solid waste, they were the cheap raw materials to fuel burgeoning economy. China became an industrial super power at a great an environmental cost when they became one of the world’s most polluted countries. Part of a larger environmental plan to cut on CO2 emissions, halting the import of plastic waste was an important part of their strategy.
This action made the European to take drastic measure by putting the brakes on their plastic waste. Europe alone generates 25 million tons of plastic waste each year and recycles less than 30 percent of it.
The whole ordeal led the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans to declare:
“If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050,” and he continued: “We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies. The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more.”
In 2015 China imported 49.6 million tons of trash. In 2016 the European Union exported 85 percent of its sorted plastics, while Ireland 95 percent of its plastic waste, and the United States 16 million tons of recycled scrap.
The Chinese announcement of this new rule let the UN Environment @UNEnvironment
“China’s decision to ban plastic waste imports should be a trigger-point to develop sustainable plastic waste management practices & boost recycling rates in waste exporting countries. #BeatPollution”
The Chinese have partially tried to solve their own problems but left the rest of the world in turmoil. This should be a trigger to the rest of the scientific community to press for new recycling technologies and the world’s government to create more restrictive rules on the usage of plastics and all its derivatives.
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