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17 September
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World

China's ban on the import of foreign waste has influenced the global recycling system

Southeast region now can not cope with such a large amount of plastic

Photo: GettyImages

/NOVOSTIVL/ From grubby packaging engulfing small Southeast Asian communities to waste piling up in plants from the US to Australia, China's ban on accepting the world's used plastic has plunged global recycling into turmoil. This article appeared in the Agence France-Presse.

For many years, China received the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, processing much of it into a higher quality material that could be used by manufacturers.

But at the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste, as well as many other recyclables, in a push to protect the local environment and air quality, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.

"It was like an earthquake," Arnaud Brunet, director general of Brussels-based industry group The Bureau of International Recycling, told AFP.

Instead, plastic is being redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asia, where Chinese recyclers have shifted en masse.

Southeast Asian nations affected early by the China ban ― as well as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were hit hard ― have taken steps to limit plastic imports, but the waste has simply been redirected to other countries without restrictions, such as Indonesia and Turkey, according to the Greenpeace report.

With only an estimated nine percent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners say the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis is for companies to make less and consumers to use less.

Greenpeace campaigner Kate Lin said: "The only solution to plastic pollution is producing less plastic."

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