“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. 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.
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. On Thursday, the Irish Times reported that more than 95% of Ireland’s plastic waste was shipped to China last year.
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.
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:
 Global Recycling Markets: Plastic Waste, International Solid Waste Association, https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-eastasia-stateless/2019/11/27d1dd21-27d1dd21-tfgwm_report_grm_plastic_china_lr.pdf ; UN Comtrade Database, https://comtrade.un.org/
Anna McGurk, Communications Officer, [email protected], phone +86 150 1130 6609
Greenpeace International Press Desk, [email protected], phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)