Since the 1990s, China has accepted waste paper, discarded plastic and unwanted metals from other countries to help power its export-driven manufacturing boom. But as of late, the country is cracking down on what it’s calling “foreign garbage,” raising health and environmental concerns.
In July, China signaled its intent to forbid 24 kinds of solid wastes by the end of 2017. And just last month, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) gave notice of adoption of new contamination standards to the World Trade Organization. In the filings, entitled Environmental Protection Control Standards for Imported Solid Wastes as Raw Materials, the MEP laid out a standard of 0.5 percent contamination for various materials, including scrap plastics and paper. This is a slight relaxation from what had been raised previously, but is not nearly as dramatic a reduction as U.S. recyclers had been hoping for.
This crackdown is not only affecting recycling companies across the globe, but it’s also affecting scrap collectors in Hong Kong who have relied on China to purchase their materials for a steady income.
The New York Times has more:
When the street value of scrap cardboard here fell by nearly a third this summer, Leung Siu-Guen, a scrap collector, started to worry.
“I began skipping dinner so I could work harder,” said Ms. Leung, who was already moonlighting as a dishwasher, sleeping fewer than five hours a night and making as little as $500 a month. The drop in price, to the equivalent of about 6 cents a kilogram, would require further sacrifices.
Since the 1990s, the world has shipped its waste paper, discarded plastic and unwanted metals to China, where they are destined to be used as raw materials to help power the country’s export-driven manufacturing boom. In 2016, China imported about $18 billion worth of what the government calls solid waste.