Why did China ban the import of plastics?
In January 2018, China followed through with their threat to halt the import of almost all categories of plastic, poor-quality cardboard and paper. With only a month passing since the ban was put in place, the results are already being faced, with UK recycling plants seeing a buildup of debris.
China was the world’s biggest processor of recycling materials. However 2017 brought with it their intent to halt the import of 24 grades of plastic, textiles and paper, saying the items were often contaminated or hazardous. The UK’s limited capacity to recycle plastic has meant they’ve been seeking alternatives since China’s proposal was put forward in July 2017, but with little success. The buildup of waste was seen as inevitable and now fears are rising that a lot of these materials will go to landfill or incineration.
For years China has been a dominating manufacturing power, which has facilitated in them becoming the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials. In 2016 it imported 7.3 million tons of waste plastics from developed countries including the UK, USA and Japan. The UK alone has shipped more than 2.7 tonnes of plastic waste to China and Hong Kong since 2012, according to Greenpeace.
The restrictions imposed by China have led the UK, and a number of other countries who exported their recyclables to China, to seek out new markets including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. However it appears the issue still remains that the quantity that needs recycling doesn’t match the available facilities, and UK recycling businesses will need to do much more if they wish to become preferred suppliers.
With a back log of materials continuing to grow, and fears of hazardous and contaminated materials being included in this back log, it will be interesting to see how UK and other developed countries handle this developing issue as 2018 progresses. Stay up to date on the story with the Contamination Expo 2018.
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