China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has advised the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week that it will ban imports on many types of waste by the end of the year. This will include plastics, unsorted paper and some textile materials.
It was the discovery that large amounts of ‘dirty or even hazardous’ waste was being mixed with waste imported for recycling into raw materials, which led to the curtailing of the importation of this highly polluted solid waste. Unsurprisingly, the waste was found to be having a detrimental impact on the environment and people’s health.
China has been a major importer of waste in the past – 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics alone in 2015, valued at $3.7 billion, and which equated to 48 per cent of the globally traded total.
Illegal smuggling of foreign waste into the country is also an issue and China’s General Administration of Customs introduced National Sword 2017, in order to combat this activity.
This leaves countries such as the US and Japan – two of the largest plastic waste exporters – with a major headache.