US needs to wake up to China’s environmental protection

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/26 22:33:40

China has been accelerating its economic growth over the past 40 years. But now it is also speeding up environmental protection and the world needs to adapt to that fact.

During the World Trade Organization (WTO)'s Council for Trade in Goods on Friday, a US representative asked China not to implement its ban on imports of foreign trash by tossing out a reason: Beijing's rules had altered far too quickly for the industry to adjust.

Since China notified the WTO in July last year that it would ban the import of 24 types of solid waste by the end of 2017, major rubbish exporters worldwide have been in a state of panic. Their concern is not hard to digest as China was the world's top destination for recyclable trash. According to reports, more than two-thirds of US wastepaper exports ended up in China in 2016 and about 87 percent of European plastic waste was transported to China from 2000 to 2008.

Decades ago, China was in the early stage of manufacturing development. Importing masses of waste was a temporary measure to accumulate raw capital. Empty foreign beverage bottles could land on China's small factories to be melted into plastic particles, manufactured into new shells for cigarette lighters and shipped to retail stores in the US or EU.

It seems that the industrial chain benefited all sides. Was that so? Take electronic waste. After recycling useful parts, the rest was likely discarded into rivers and the soil. Reports show the toxin in a computer monitor can contaminate 80 tons of water, the amount a person needs for a lifetime. Setting e-waste aside, other worthless trash would normally end up in incinerators and turn into volatile organic compounds which probably contained carcinogenic substances.

Waste exporters are turning a blind eye to that. Some even described themselves as the victims. They want Beijing to not adjust, or at least to adjust more slowly. The reality of China's environmental problems cannot tolerate indecision or slow motion.

Precisely because of China's marvelously fast environmental protection, the nation witnessed sharp improvements in air quality last winter. By the end of 2017, China had already cut particulate matter 2.5 concentrations by about 15.8 percent. "We don't have a historical example of a country achieving such rapid reductions in air pollution. It's remarkable," said Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

It's time for the world to keep up with Beijing. China is willing to adjust with other nations, in terms of both technologies and policymaking over garbage disposal. It is a responsibility that should be shouldered by the world. If developed countries are feeling the pressure, that's a positive sign. They need to make up for missed lessons in environmental protection instead of simply looking for a place to dump waste.

Only when China's ban sets off an alarm bell for developed countries and pushes them to handle their own rubbish will global pollution control genuinely improve.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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