The recent Chinese ban on plastic imports continues its impact around the world, diverting the path of tons of plastic waste generated by the U.S. and other countries. China, which used to accept roughly 50 percent of the world’s plastic waste, has put much stricter, almost impossible, contamination limits in place for its plastic imports.
Scrap is being diverted to other markets, particularly to many Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. However, tons of plastic waste will end up in landfills due to an absence of anywhere else to send it.
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China takes half of the world’s recyclables, but last year, the nation declared it no longer wanted to be the “world’s garbage dump.” China is starting to implement its latest policy, called the “National Sword,” in its wave of toughening the standards to accept plastics and scrap paper from other countries.
Kate O’Neill is associate professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. She joins The Takeaway to discuss where our recyclables really go, and the impact of China’s new policies.