Waste to wealth

Could China’s ban on the import of certain types of plastic waste present an opportunity for other nations to profit? Dr Uche Okere reports

For years, China and Hong Kong have provided an outlet for waste plastic from countries around the world. In 2016 alone, developed countries including the UK, the US and Japan reportedly shipped 7.3m metric tonnes of waste plastics, valued at $7.3 billion, representing 56% of the world’s recycled plastics to China. 

In July 2017, China announced significant changes to the quality control measures it applies to imported materials, resulting in a ban on 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of the year. Unsurprisingly, considering the dominant role of China in the market, this ban has created concerns about the fate of the world’s waste plastic. 

As of January 2018, the impact of the ban was already being felt, with reports of increasing plastic stockpiles that may end up in local landfill sites or for incineration. ...

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