China stopped the reception of plastic waste from around the world. Scientists have calculated what it can lead to in the next decade.
Representatives of the University of Georgia published a study according to which in the next 10 years in the world there will be an additional 111 million tons of plastic waste, and so far no one knows how to cope with them.
The reason for the study was China’s decision to stop accepting plastics that were imported from 43 countries.
Since 1992, China has been one of the largest inorganic waste recyclers in the world. For 26 years it was an extremely profitable transaction, as it was cheaper for many countries to export waste than to recycle it. Enterprising Chinese, however, received cheap plastic, processed it into new products and sold them all over the world.
During this time, China has taken more than 100 million tons of waste. But, since the beginning of 2018, the authorities of the PRC have stopped accepting garbage from abroad.
According to the study, most of the plastic in China was sent by the European Union and individual states with advanced economies – the USA (more than 25 million tons), Japan (more than 20 million tons), Germany (more than 15 million tons). Now these and other countries need to find a new application for their waste.
The output can be processed markets of other Asian countries – Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand. But their infrastructure is clearly not comparable to the Chinese, and even the combined capacity of these countries is unlikely to be enough to cope with such volumes of plastics.
The authors of the study say that this event should be the impetus for changing the policy of plastic waste processing around the world:
These waste must be managed, and we must manage them properly
“This is a call to awakening. Historically, we depended on China, which used to take all the garbage, but now refused. These waste must be managed, and we must manage them properly, “explains study author Amy Brooks.
A fatal decision by the authorities of the People’s Republic will really affect only countries that do not have the infrastructure for processing plastic products. In fact, China has simply introduced very stringent rules for the import of such wastes.
If earlier any plastic was accepted, then in 2013 China decided to check the purity of the plastics. Organic and other residues on plastic products could contaminate the processing machine and spoil the final product. In addition, most processing plants use manual sorting, so contaminated plastic has harmed the health of workers.
At the end of 2017, this restriction was extended to household waste – bottles, bags, cups, etc. Now sent to China plastic should not be contaminated by more than 0.5%. This is the main problem for many countries that do not even use primary waste recycling.
According to USA Today, every day the US sent 4000 containers with plastic waste to China for further processing. And from now on, both America and other countries need to somehow expand their processing infrastructure for the expected 111 million tons of waste by 2030.
The European Union reacted to the decision of China in the beginning of 2018. The European Commission introduced additional taxes on the release of plastics and announced a course for the cleaning and recycling of waste.
The study also indicates that China has processed half of the plastics from around the world, and since 1950, mankind has created nearly nine billion tons of waste, two of which are still on the surface of the earth as dumps and plastic islands in the world’s oceans.