China’s ban on imported waste to spur global environmental campaigns

China’s recent ban on imported waste has aroused broad international attention. Some countries which are no longer able to dispose such huge amounts of trash even criticized China groundlessly.

However, justice always prevails as there are also rational voices supporting China saying the world should be grateful to China since this current move to ban waste will spur large-scale global environmental campaigns.

At present, China is a major destination for the world’s waste. The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database indicated that over 70% of the world’s plastic waste and 37% of the world’s paper waste ended up in China in 2015, while Europe and the US were the major sources of such waste.

Paris Match Belgique reported that about 2/3 of the trash produced by Europe were recycled, and the rest went to China. Each year, China imported nearly 50 million tons of waste, including 9 million tons of waste plastic.

The UK has exported a total of 2.7 million tons of waste plastic since 2012, 2/3 of the country’s total trash volume, said The Guardian.

However, China is gradually changing the current situation, and its ban on imported waste has forced the western world to take new measures on garbage disposal.

A Paris Match report said that the ban will change the face of the world’s recycling industry, and that garbage classification methods will be further segmented in the future.

Some of the developed countries have already enhanced their garbage classification methods in order to meet China’s increasingly strict standards on waste imports. The US has even started utilizing artificial intelligence technology to sort some forms of trash, said Frank Brill, a US expert environmental lobbyist.

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme noted that China’s ban is a signal for wealthy countries to strengthen their recycling systems.

The impact of the ban on trash exporters is self-evident, said Financial Times, adding that the European Union (EU) is likely to make a quick response and put a levy on plastic bags.

On Jan. 23, the EU issued its first plan on plastic waste disposal, aiming to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030.

The UK has also pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as part of the government’s 25-year plan to improve the natural environment.

“Though the effect of garbage disposal is not immediate, China has made valuable attempts,” some media commented.

As a matter of fact, the transfer of polluting industries from developed countries to less-developed countries is not something unique to China. For example, the rivers of Bangladesh have also been polluted by waste water discharged from local textile factories and there are many more similar stories around the world.

China’s ban on imported goods will probably change the current situation. Spanish newspaper El País believes that the ban will help reduce environmental pollution and enhance China’s recycling industry.