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article imageChina's waste ban goes into effect — No more 'foreign garbage'

By Karen Graham     Jan 2, 2018 in Environment
With China's waste import ban going into effect, nations like the U.S. and UK will have to deal with mountains of recyclables as solid waste departments, haulers, recyclers, and other stakeholders seek to find new options for recyclable products.
Every single day, about 4,000 shipping containers full of recyclables leave U.S. ports, bound for China. In return, China sends us toys, electronics, and clothing.
And this is just the U.S. The UK has been shipping around 500,000 tons of recyclables to China every year. And the UK Recycling Association says it just doesn't know how to deal with that much waste in the short term.
Greenpeace estimates Singles Day deliveries last year produced 130 000 tonnes of packaging waste -- ...
Greenpeace estimates Singles Day deliveries last year produced 130,000 tonnes of packaging waste -- less than 10 percent of which is recycled
Chinese regulation banning the import of 24 different types of waste
On January 1, 2018, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection's (MEP) new “National Sword” policy, which bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a much tougher standard for contamination levels, went into effect.
Besides the ban addressing environmental and health issues in China, it also has the potential to be a major global disrupter for many waste-exporting countries who have for too long taken an "out of sight, out of mind" approach to waste disposal, lending impetus to the adoption of innovative disposal and recycling methods.
According to the South China Morning Post, since the 1980s, China has ­become the world’s largest importer of waste, or “foreign trash”, as it is commonly called in Chinese. By 2012, 56 percent of the world's exported waste ended up in China.
Roughly 800 tonnes of waste is added daily to the open dump in Kolonnawa  and the parliament in Sri ...
Roughly 800 tonnes of waste is added daily to the open dump in Kolonnawa, and the parliament in Sri Lanka has even been warned that the 23 million tonnes of rotting garbage poses a serious health hazard
It is not as if the global community didn't know about the ban beforehand. In July 2017, the MEP notified the World Trade Organization about the ban going into effect on December 31, 2017. The National Sword policy follows China’s “Green Fence,” a 10-month policy the country enacted five years ago, which set initial standards for lower contamination levels for recycling.
In what seems to be an endorsement of protectionist trade policies, the MEP also stated: “Importing garbage that can be replaced by domestic resources will be phased out by the end of 2019. The types and amount of garbage imports will be cut down steadily.”
Bales of crushed blue PET bottles and bales of various other plastics. In Olomouc  the Czech Republi...
Bales of crushed blue PET bottles and bales of various other plastics. In Olomouc, the Czech Republic.
Michal Maňas
American recycling
Truth be told - We have a crisis developing under our noses and it may get smelly. National Public Radio talked with Be Harvey, president of E.L. Harvey & Sons, a family-run business since 1911 in Westborough, Massachusetts. In his business, "recyclables are brought in, processed and moved out, as quickly as possible," said Harvey.
“We’re looking at 150 to 200 tractor trailer loads of paper. It’s stacked approximately 12 feet high, and it goes for quite a distance." Harvey can’t sell the 2,000-pound bales to China because the contamination levels will exceed China's new standards. A greasy pizza box wouldn't be allowed.
And that is part of the problem in the U.S. American consumers are making it hard for recycling collectors. Inside Harvey's plant, streams of cans, bottles and paper roll by on conveyor belts. A machine sorts things first, then workers do a second, manual sort.
They pick out a lot of trash from the bottles and cans. About 15 percent of the recycling that E.L. Harvey & Sons collects in its recycling trucks is unusable rubbish.
“We call it ‘wishful recycling,’” Harvey says. “The general public says, ‘Hey, let’s put it in [the] recycling barrel; they’ll figure out something to do with it.’”
An e-waste landfill in Ann Arbor  Michigan.
An e-waste landfill in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
George Hotelling from Canton, MI, United States
“Because everything was going offshore, the mills have been slow to develop in the United States to handle this material,” Harvey says. “With the tightness in the marketplace, there might be mills that will be built, but that takes four to five to six years to put in a mill that will handle the capacity that we’re currently looking at.”
Now, that is a lot of waste just sitting around. And here's a scary thought - In the UK, some groups are wanting to move toward incineration and landfills for all the waste. However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has admitted that he was slow to spot the problem coming.
When worse comes to worst, this situation could become a full-blown environmental disaster unless something is done at the national and local levels. This leaves it up to countries around the globe to introduce more comprehensive and more effective waste classification measures, to ensure more gets recycled, and less gets dumped in rapidly expanding landfill sites.
More about China, waste ban, foreign garbage, Recycling, ocean shipping