China’s ban on imports of 24 types of waste is a wake up call to the world - Greenpeace

Press release - 2017-12-29
Beijing, 29 December 2017 - China’s upcoming ban on the import of 24 types of waste will send a wake up call to waste exporting countries and increase pressure to find more sustainable ways to dispose of and recycle waste, as well as tackle the issue at source by reducing the production of plastics and other disposable goods.

Greenpeace East Asia plastics campaigner Liu Hua said:

"This regulation will send shockwaves around the world, and force many countries to tackle the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude we've developed towards waste"

"The world cannot continue with the current wasteful consumption model based on infinite growth in a finite world. Rather than find new places to export waste, governments and the private sector must find ways to simply reduce the amount of waste we are creating."

The regulation was announced in July 2017 and bans 24 types of waste under four categories: certain types of mining slag, household waste plastics, unsorted waste paper and waste textiles.[1] It comes into force on 1 January 2018.

Since the 1980s China has become the world’s largest importer of waste. In 2012, up to 56% of global exported plastic waste ended up in China. Imported plastic waste alone reached a peak of almost 9 million tonnes in 2012.[2]

The dependency of exporter countries on China’s market is striking. An Unearthed investigation published earlier this month has shown that the UK alone exports an average 65% of its plastic waste to China.[3] On Thursday, the Irish Times reported that more than 95% of Ireland’s plastic waste was shipped to China last year.[4]

According to the Unearthed investigation, anticipation of the ban this year has led to an uptick in British waste exports to other countries, such as Malaysia and Vietnam.[5] However, no other countries’ waste industries have the same capacity as China’s and the governments of waste exporting countries will ultimately be forced to face up to their waste problems on their own soil.

China’s ban on the imports of 24 types of waste should also serve to propel better waste disposal and recycling measures in both exporting countries and China itself. Ultimately, however, the world’s waste crisis must be tackled at source.

Greenpeace urges industries and corporations that manufacture and market plastics and other disposable products to take responsibility for their products through their entire life-cycle, take responsibility for the environmental costs and invest in transformative solutions and alternatives to put an end to the current unmanageable levels of waste produced every year.

Notes to Editor:

[1] 《国务院办公厅关于印发禁止洋垃圾入境推进固体废物进口管理制度改革实施方案的通知》http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2017-07/27/content_5213738.htm
[2] Global Recycling Markets: Plastic Waste, International Solid Waste Association, https://www.iswa.org/fileadmin/galleries/Task_Forces/TFGWM_Report_GRM_Plastic_China_LR.pdf ; UN Comtrade Database, https://comtrade.un.org/
[3] https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2017/12/07/china-plastic-scrap-ban-crisis-uk-recycling/
[4] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/china-not-to-bin-our-rubbish-anymore-so-what-next-1.3339124
[5] https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2017/12/07/china-plastic-scrap-ban-crisis-uk-recycling/

Media contacts:

Anna McGurk, Communications Officer, , phone +86 150 1130 6609

Greenpeace International Press Desk, , phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

Categories