Rubbish Removal News: China Stops Accepting Other Countries’ Rubbish
Since January 1, 2018, China is no longer accepting many types of what they call “yang laji,” which translates into foreign trash, or foreign rubbish. According to the New York Times, China had been accepting and processing about half of the world’s constant supply of metal, plastic, and paper. They estimated this came to about 7.3 million tonnes in year 2016. China has decided this is affecting their environment and the health of their people too much to continue accepting so much yang laji.
There really wasn’t a lot of notice this would be happening, only about five months in fact. In July 2017, China contacted the World Trade Organization (WTO) letting them know they intended to outright ban imports of many types of recycled materials from other other countries and provide stricter guidelines for what they continued to accept. This left nations like the United States scrambling to figure out what to do with their enormous mountains of recyclables. American companies had been sending an average of four thousand shipping containers full of recyclables to China every day last year! It was actually the sixth largest export the Americans sent to China!
Steve Frank, in charge of a recycling plant in Oregon, said that he is attempting to send their recyclables to Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia. However, he also says that this will not make up the difference for what he used to send to China. He says there will be MAJOR upsets globally in the streams of recyclables. Frustrated by the whole ordeal, he states that his inventory is “out of control.” Relatively speaking, however, Steve Frank is lucky. Other recycling companies in the United States, including some of the biggest in Houston Texas, had to go out of business due to the changes.
The UK has so much rubbish removal piling up due to the changes in China imports, they are considering putting their recyclables in landfills or simply burning them, at least in the short term until they can figure out what to do with all this extra rubbish removal recyclables they used to send to China. Nova Scotia Canada has already had to bury three hundred tonnes of rubbish removal recyclables that would have gone to China in a landfill! Rubbish is even piling up in the port of Hong Kong where rubbish removal shipments are being turned back because they are no longer accepted. O’Donovan Waste Disposal says they are expecting huge bottlenecks across all of UK.
Part of the problem was how contaminated the recyclables would come into China. The Chinese were even finding hazardous materials mixed in with the recyclables. As a result, the recyclables that China still accepts will have higher standards for contamination and will be inspected before they are accepted. China has changed the amount of contamination they’ll accept and they plan to enforce this strictly. Currently, American recycling companies can achieve at best a one and a half percent contamination rate. However, China is planning to check shipping containers with recyclables and any of them with more than 0.5 contamination will be turned back! This is a contamination rate that will be really tough for American companies to achieve without major changes.
As you can imagine, this has caused major strife worldwide as countries like the UK and the United States struggle to figure out what to do with their never ending supply of these recyclables from their rubbish removal. It’s forcing them to take a good hard look at what they plan to do about this problem in the future, after they deal with the more urgent rubbish removal crisis they have currently. Theresa May is urging grocery stores in the UK to have plastic free isles where the food will be sold loose without packaging. The EU plans to begin taxing plastic packaging and plastic bags.
Some companies in the UK have proposed burning rubbish removal for energy production. While some are enthusiastic about this idea, there is also strong opposition to the idea as well. Many feel this would detract from a circular economy that many hope to achieve in the future, where all materials would be recycled over and over again, with little to no loss of material along the way. However, the reality of the current situation may force the two sides to compromise on this issue as burning the rubbish removal for energy would be better than simply dumping it in a landfill.
It may also end up being the case that the UK and other countries have to tip their rubbish removal in a landfill temporarily and later excavate it and reuse it when they develop the facilities to do so. However, this does not stop the destruction to the environment these materials would cause being tipped in a landfill, even for a while.
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