Waste import ban shows China striving for green growth

Date: Jan 05, 2018
Great Britain, a major waste exporter, has been shipping about half a million tons of plastic to China every year. That ended this year. In a measure that took effect on December 31, China banned imports of 24 types of solid waste including waste plastics, unsorted scrap paper, discarded textiles and vanadium slag. China will also ban imports of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources by the end of 2019.

The move dealt a blow to foreign waste exporters. Britain has relied heavily on China for relocation of its waste and pollution as the country lacks sufficient recycling and waste processing facilities of its own. The ban will likely lead to the stockpiling of plastic waste and mean more incineration and landfill, posing harm to its environment.

For the US, another mass trash exporter that sent about $5.2 billion worth of scrap metal, paper and plastic to China in 2016, the ban will affect the US-based multi-billion-dollar recycling industry and result in losses of tens of thousands of jobs and the closure of many businesses in the country.

Despite having gained remarkable momentum in its economic development, China has paid a heavy price through environmental degradation and health problems posed by the improper recycling of imported waste which is often dirty, poorly sorted or contaminated with hazardous substances. Some companies in and outside China have also smuggled foreign waste of no recycling value for profit, creating environmental and public health hazards.

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