Plastics Pile Up as China Refuses to Take the West’s Recycling
Western nations have been puzzled over what to do when China’s ban on taking recyclables went into effect on Jan. 1. Plastic backups have been reported in Canada, Ireland, Germany, London and several other European nations, while tons of rubbish is piling up in port cities like Hong Kong.
China’s ban covers imports of 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and the low-grade polyethylene terephthalate used in plastic bottles, as part of a broad cleanup effort and a campaign against “yang laji,” or “foreign garbage.” It also sets new limits on the levels of impurities in other recyclables.
China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. Last July, China notified the World Trade Organization that it intended to ban some imports of trash, saying the action was needed to protect the environment and improve public health.
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