Why did China stop taking recycling? And what should we do?
China has a great capacity to handle plastics besides the inexpensive labours to separate recyclable materials from non-recyclable ones. Through 2016, the US shipped nearly 700,000 tons a year to China alone. So, indeed China had massive abilities to handle recycling huge amounts of plastics. Environmentalists people wondered, What will we do after the China Plastics Ban. And what’s what we will discuss here.
How much Plastic China used to receive to recycle?
Overall, China has shipped 7 million tons from around the world into the country. Around five years ago, the Chinese government started to worry about all the garbage pouring in the country and polluting it. A lot of plastic was tainted with things that made it difficult and expensive to recover–pulp, food waste, plastic wrap (which is not recyclable). And some plastic was hard to treat and therefore not economical to manufacture.
What’s more, a ton of plastic sneaked in illegally, without authorization. Such fly-by-night recyclers discarded products that could not be recovered, creating waste on landfills and soil. For a while, China, as the hub of global recycled activity, has made it work. As it became the world’s leading producer of cheap clothing and other manufactured products, the demand for plastic feed was increased.
Read more about what will happen if we didn’t stop plastic pollution.
Since after importing products to the West Coast, China had vacant ships, without any luggage, to fill on the return trip and bid rock-bottom shipping rates to West Coast recycling companies to sell their plastic trash. In 2016, half of the world’s plastic waste meant for disposal had been sold globally. China has generated 45 % of the world’s total waste since 1992, when Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 after 156 years as a British colony, adds up to 70% of China’s share.
What is the National Sword Policy?
With the massive increase in emissions and garbage waste, the Chinese government cracked down in 2016. Through out 2017, the
government started cutting back on shipments of plastic trash. Then the big bomb was blasted when China’s “National Sword” scheme, implemented in January 2018, banned imports of the bulk of plastics and other products intended for the nation’s recycling plants, which had processed almost half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter-century.
Why did China stop taking recycling?
The move was an effort to stop a burden of soiled and contaminated pollutants that overcame Chinese processing facilities and left the country with yet another environmental problem, and that was not made by the country itself. This suggests there’s a huge amount of plastic-looking for a place to go, particularly, in the western US, where communities depended heavily on Chinese trade. A lot of waste is being stockpiled, in the U.S now.
In 2018, China has announced that it officially ban the “foreign garbage,” i.e., plastic and paper scrap recycling from the U.S. and Europe. Since 1 March, 24 materials, including plastic and paper, have been banned from entering its borders. The few things the nation will take, like scrap metal must be super clean (to be precise, not more than 5% unclean).
This is huge for the U.S., which was sending almost 700,000 tons of waste to China until 2016. Most of that will not be tolerated under the new rules. And as you may know, managing waste is not that easy.
Read more about waste management.
What will we do after China Plastics Ban?
What will we do with all these broken cans and newspapers? Several states have already started to dump recyclables into landfill sites, but there are other choices that countries can take. Here are some more alternatives:
1. Reduce the use of Plastic
The first and most successful way to deal with the collapsing supply of bottles, caps, and cans is to avoid using so many Plastic products, etc. Legal measures, such as California’s prohibition on single-use plastic bags, reduced the amount of waste that can be recycled. In 2016, the state, that was used to hand out 13 billion plastic bags a year, prohibited single-use plastic bags and this had a direct, noticeable impact on the reduction of waste: the 2017 “Coastal Cleanup Day” took less than half as many bags as their 2010 effort, according to the LA Times. Hence, reduce the use of plastic and other recyclable materials can produce a remarkable impact on waste reduction.
Read 13 Reasons Why Plastic is bad & 4 product ideas that can replace plastic.
2. Stockpile the scraps
The second way to deal with the waste is that the U.S could store the scraps and garbage until they have enough recycling facilities in the country. Since they’ve been relying on China’s open arms for so long, they haven’t spent enough in mills to handle all the paper scraps in the U.S. It will take up to 5 or 6 years to build plants that can accommodate and recycle everything that was sent to China before. During that time, the US has got to be careful about where to place scrap piles.
3. Shift waste to other countries
The last and least possible way to reroute the ships that carry the recyclables to other countries which can handle this amount of waste. Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan increased the amount of plastic scrap they embrace in 2018, while India and Mexico accepted more cardboard and paper scraps. Even so, in 2016, China produced half of the world’s chemicals, ink, and metals.
The problem here, If these developing countries are ready to take the waste china rejected, they would have to be ready to recycle them. If they couldn’t, it will not be an efficient solution as it will still produce environmental impacts.
Conclusion on Why did China stop taking recycling
China banned plastic waste from the U.S and other countries, in 2018 because of the illegal transfer of waste and increased pollution levels. The U.S is now transferring its waste to other developing countries, the best alternative U.S can take to solve this problem is to reduce and then stop the use of plastic materials or construct more recycling facilities to use these materials again instead of sending them to landfills. No doubt, we need to invest more in improving our waste management system.