China Doubles Down On Waste Import Ban

A year ago, China’s ban on imported solid waste was something that provided mixed opinions from many countries. Now, this discussion has kickstarted once more as China now plans to expand its policy.

The previous regulation banned 24 categories of solid waste. The new act that will go into effect this New Year’s eve will increase that amount to 32, according to official Chinese news agency Xinhua.

When the ban was first put into place, it caused recyclers to be cut off from their main waste buyer. This was only one of the problems the ban caused worldwide.

Included in the ban are hardware, ships, auto-parts, stainless steel, scrap, titanium and wood. This will lead to many companies needing to completely change their recycling methods, but this is a small sacrifice for the health of the environment.

According to Science Advances, 72% of the world’s plastic waste has ended up in China or Hong Kong since 1992. Last year, more than half of the United States’ scrap metals were exported and bought by China.

However, both these figures have been gradually decreasing ever since the initial ban which should come as good news to Chinese citizens.

With so much waste trade going into China, it has caused many parts of Beijing to become overly polluted and many civilians to feel as though it is being treated as the world’s recycling bin.

China was the dumping ground for more than half of the world’s rubbish before the original ban and, at its peak, was importing as much as 9 million metric tons of plastic scrap a year, according to Greenpeace.

The country started to import waste in the 1980s to support their blooming manufacturing sector. It grew an entire industry out of processing waste, but improper handling and a lack of effective management turned the country into a huge source of pollution.

China, now the second-largest economy in the world, has been putting serious focus into cleaning up their air and water, but it does admittedly still have a long way to go, as a study released in March by The University of Chicago found that air pollution levels in the country still exceeds global standards set by the World Health Organization.

The country also wishes to improve the quality of what waste it is being given.

China set a contamination level of 0.5% last year for cardboard and metal products. This number is extremely low compared to the US and other countries to change their standards.

Global exports of plastic to China decreased from 7.4 million tonnes to 1.5 million this year. Paper exports may fall by 25% according to researchers, showing China will be completely reducing the amount of waste it keeps, and many countries relying on them may have to look for alternatives in the near future.

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