The consequences of China's new environmental initiatives are creating a ripple effect the world over. If other countries don't adjust accordingly, the environmental impact could be devastating. In recent months, the United States has sent mountains of plastic to Malaysia, instead of China. This plastic waste is broken down by Malaysian workers manually, but this isn't a long-term solution.
Without China, the United States' Plastic Waste Has Nowhere to Go
China is banning waste imports, including both plastic and paper, in a move to make their own processing plants more environmentally friendly. In the past, China would take these waste imports and attempt to use them for manufacturing. This affordable manufacturing process had a side effect: it was usually extremely wasteful and created a significant amount of pollution.
With China no longer taking on plastic and paper, the United States' waste still has to go somewhere. That somewhere is now Malaysia. In Malaysia, workers are earning $10 a day to break down heap after heap of plastic waste. This plastic is of low quality and not likely to be recycled in any fashion. There are, however, some attempts being made to reclaim the clean, high-quality plastics like bottles. Most of the plastic waste will be burned, increasing local pollution.
More Recycling Attempts Are Needed to Reduce Environmental Damage
Eventually, other countries will refuse to take on plastic waste and it's going to become necessary to both reduce the amount of plastic that's used and recycle the plastic that can be reused. Shipping plastic and paper waste overseas only works insofar as other countries are willing and able to take it. As other countries improve economically, the impetus to take this plastic waste is reduced. Further, as overseas countries fill up with plastic waste, it becomes logistically impossible to take more.
If increased efforts are made to recycle, these plastics can either be avoided or reduced entirely. Small measures, such as switching to paper straws and banning plastic bags have already begun to reduce the amount of plastic being used.
Malaysia and many other countries are already struggling with waste issues of their own, and paying these countries to take on the environmental and economic burden of the United States' plastic production is not a long-term solution. As everyone ultimately lives in a closed system - planet earth - moving pollution from one country to another doesn't create any net gain. Ideally, there will be a move toward improved and increased recycling.
To learn more about the process of recycling and how it can be implemented in industrial and commercial industries, contact the experts at Central Kentucky Fiber Resources.