China’s Waste Ban Creates Global Recycling Crisis

By: Gabe Govi | Multimedia

September 10, 2018

China, a country shaped by world-wide mass consumer production, has begun enforcing a new environmental initiative with potential to reduce its carbon footprint and remove their label as ‘the world’s trash collector,’ but consequently, has forced an ultimatum on the rest of the world.

If you’ve ever felt a sense of guilt looking at the nation’s trash consumption, now you can feel bad about recycling too! Half of the U.S.’s recycling exports go overseas, and 90% go directly to China’s waste processing centers. In January of 2018, China updated its policies on recycled good imports and as a result, recycling coming into the country dropped drastically.

As a direct result, recycling centers worldwide brim with unpurchased recycling and if America and the rest of the world don’t find a solution for the trash crisis, we risk sinking thousands of recycling companies and ultimately throwing our recyclables into landfills.

America has over 3,000 landfills, and at least three times that number in inactive ones, so, needless to say, we are in no shortage of useless trash-ridden wastelands. That number may increase considerably if no action is taken soon; 36% of recycling programs within the U.S. have already tanked with little progress. A cube once worth $75 to $85 to a recycling plant may now cost the company money just to get rid of. 

We all know that making too much trash is one of our biggest environmental issues we contribute to daily, but what are we actually going to do? The crux of the issue is that recycling more is actually bankrupting the recycling centers; we can’t just keep making blue bins and carelessly consuming. No matter how you design the infrastructure, we will always produce waste and we will always need to dispose of it.

Environmental teacher Mr. Kerr, let out a deep sigh at the mention of the waste ban, saying “The United States need to be a leader and hold ourselves accountable to be innovators of new waste management strategies. It would be easier to point the finger at others but it’s our trash and we need to figure it out.”

Essentially, the only way to prevent the problem rather than adding another way to fix it is to first make America independent in the waste disposal industry. Such self-sufficiency would steer us away from putting our economy (and hundreds of millions of tons of trash) in another nation’s hands and force our own environmental initiatives internally. Not only would we likely become better at creating less trash in the first place, but disposing, sorting, and recycling into new goods would all be handled internally and improve drastically.

When the responsibility is in our hands, we will be able to engineer solutions. The problem isn’t just how much trash we make, it’s how we manage it. It may be easier to dump our environmental problems onto other countries, but they’ve now done the same thing back. It is our turn to follow in China’s footsteps and rethink the worldwide waste disposal system before the blue containers vanish.

For more information and a guilt-inducing documentary, watch this video

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