Western countries 'should deal with own waste' amid plunge in China’s plastics imports

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/29 22:08:40

Import of plastic pellets approved by China as they cause little pollution

Customs officers inspect imported waste in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province. Photo: VCG

Overseas countries should change their ideas about shipping garbage to Asian nations and deal with the waste themselves, experts said on Wednesday, as some overseas countries have been upset by China's efforts to reduce overseas waste imports in recent months.

According to overseas media reports, some countries are scrambling to find alternatives to China as their new waste-exporting destinations, particularly Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam.

"Some developed countries are in the habit of exporting their garbage, but neither China nor countries like Vietnam have the environmental capacity to receive and cope with that waste. Those garbage exporters should change their behavior," Wang Wang, executive vice president of the China Synthetic Resin Association Plastic Recycling Branch, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The Chinese government issued a guideline in July 2017 telling domestic companies to carry out an orderly reduction in the types and amounts of solid waste imports, according to gov.cn.

In that month, China also notified the World Trade Organization of its ban on importing several types of solid waste, including plastics and discarded textiles, citing environmental concerns, the Beijing Review reported at the time.

"Domestic ports' checks on plastics imports have been particularly strict in recent months. Almost no overseas plastic enters China nowadays," said Zheng Tianlu, an expert with the China Plastics Processing Industry Association.

According to Zheng, this is because plastics are harder on the environment when it comes to processing procedures, including washing and burning, compared with other solid waste like paper.

"China has closed most of the domestic waste plastics distribution centers out of environmental protection concerns," Zheng told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Some other countries can't adjust to this policy change, as they've been in the habit of sending their waste to China. CNN Money reported that in the UK, most recycled plastic was sent to China for processing. The report also cited the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries as saying that  the US sent 31 percent of its scrap commodity exports to China in 2017.

"In the past, China imported solid waste because we were short of raw materials, and also because some domestic trading companies wanted to have some low-cost shipping business when their vessels returned from overseas countries. But this has to stop, given China's deteriorating environment," Wang said.

According to Zheng, some domestic companies are turning to import plastic pellets (processed from plastics) from places like Thailand and Vietnam, as these cause little pollution. Permission to do this is therefore approved by the government.

"Some US companies are also thinking of exporting plastic pellets to China, but with the trade dispute that's hard to do," Zheng said.

Wang said that apart from supervising imports of solid waste, China should also announce rules requiring domestic companies such as beverage makers to include recycling in their manufacturing and sales systems.

"It's hard for companies to voluntarily start such a money-consuming system without a push from the government," Wang said.

Newspaper headline: Western countries ‘should deal with own waste’


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