China’s decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries is causing plastic to stockpile around the globe, and wealthy countries must find a way to slow the accumulation of one of the most ubiquitous materials on the planet, a group of scientists said on Wednesday.
The report titled: ‘The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade’, sought to quantify the impact of China’s policy on the worldwide trade in plastic waste, and found that an estimated of 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced by 2030.
The Chinese ban went into effect December 31, 2017, and the stockpiling trend figures to worsen, the scientists said.
Wealthy countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany have long sent their plastic recyclables to China, and the country does not want to be the world’s dumping ground for plastic anymore.
The study found China has taken more than 105 million metric tons of the material since 1992, the equivalent of the weight of more than 300 Empire State Buildings.
“The change is forcing countries to rethink how they deal with plastic waste. They need to be more selective about what they choose to recycle, and more fastidious about reusing plastics,” said Amy Brooks, first author on the study and a doctoral student in engineering at the University of Georgia.
In the meantime, Brooks said, more plastic waste is likely to get incinerated or sent to landfills.
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