For decades, China played an active role in importing the waste from other countries and recycling it further. But the recent ban starting January has left other countries already trembling over their tonnes of waste with nowhere to go. China has straight away refused to be a trash dumping ground anymore and is undertaking reforms for an environment-friendly society. However, there are some questions that need to be answered.
1. A Glance at the History of Plastic Waste
Since 1988, China has been holding the responsibility of recycling the waste other countries dispose on its shores. The data of waste transported from 1988 to 2016 was used to calculate the amount of waste that will be left untreated due to the ban by 2030, which was estimated to be about 111 million tons. Plastic bags, single-use water bottles, and plastic wrappers have eventually found a home in the land of China no matter where they come from. The country treated this waste and recycled it to make plastic goods, but with this new ban, where will the waste go?
2. China’s Take on Plastic Waste
It is a fact that China’s economy is growing faster than ever. And when a country reaches a stable position, it is no more about making more money, but bringing about a difference. For years, other countries have treated their waste with the ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ attitude because it is easier to load it on a ship and send it to a far-off land rather than dealing with it. The country has received more than 9 million metric tonnes of waste every year, but it cannot put its air, water, and land at stake anymore. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is promoting environment-friendly reforms and discouraging pollution prone activities. Furthermore, they have even shut down thousands of factories which were known to be causing pollution.
3. Perception of the Rest of The World
US, UK, Japan are some of the major contributors to this list which export the maximum waste to China. It is no more than a nightmare for them because it takes time to change a reform which will have an impact globally. They call the ban, ‘screwing the global trade system. Plastic is embedded in our society and one day you wake up and feel not to import plastic anymore, it will lead to problems for others’.
- Landfills, incinerating are options but they aren’t feasible due to the health effects they can cause like toxic air, breathing problems etc.
- The option of transporting waste to other Southeast countries like Philippines and Vietnam isn’t quite a possibility too owing to their lacking infrastructure.
- The growing trade-off between US and China adds to this problem and China is strong headed to keep this ban henceforth.
- Six months down the line, the countries are having a hard time already.
- So these nations have no clue where to displace their waste and displace is a nice term coined for saying nowhere to go.
4. How to Deal With it Now?
Since China is not ready to back off and take down its ban and other countries are still living in the denial phase, the honest thing to face is that 111 million tonnes of waste lie there which doesn’t know its destination. Thinking deep about this, such a huge amount of plastic is environmentally damaging. China can work towards cutting down some categories and allowing others, while other countries can take this as a wake-up call and start adopting measures themselves.
Working an agreement towards the growing global issue and shaking hands towards a better planet is the need of the hour. Treating waste comes later; the countries can work towards reducing it in the first place. Saying no to plastic bags, bottles are simple things to adopt. If no one is willing to bring about this much change, then probably they are responsible for their own fate!