Just The Facts

Plastic Waste: The World Makes, China Takes

China now imports a majority of the world’s annual waste plastic.

Credit: puwanai Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • China takes in more than half of worldwide waste plastic each year.
  • Much of the plastic collected for recycling in Europe, US and Japan is shipped to China.
  • The Chinese government is working to reduce unregulated waste plastic processing facilities.

1. China takes in more than half of worldwide waste plastic each year, for disposal, re-use or incidental use.

2. Indeed, most plastic scraps from countries with established collection systems eventually flow to China.

3. The world’s largest economy receives 56% of waste plastic imports worldwide (measured by weight).

4. In fact, much of the plastic collected for recycling in Europe, the United States, Japan and other industrialized countries is shipped to China, as well as to other countries that have lower environmental protection controls for the disposal of contaminants or wastewater.

5. Unfortunately, indirect evidence suggests that most of this imported waste plastic is reprocessed at low-tech, family-run facilities with virtually no environmental protection controls.

6. One secondary use – burning plastic for energy – requires strict air emissions controls to be safe.

7. Burning plastic produces hazardous ash needing proper disposal. Without these measures, it can be highly unsafe.

8. Plastic incineration for power generation is also relatively inefficient.

9. Through its 2010 Green Fence Operation program, the Chinese government has started to work to reduce the number of unregulated waste plastic processing facilities.

Sources: Worldwatch Institute and The Globalist Research Center.

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