When China imposed a ban on plastic waste imports due to its own environmental problems, it threw the recycling industry in western countries into turmoil as it did not have the capacity to recycle such huge amounts of trash. Before the ban, China alone took in 45% of the world’s plastic waste imports for recycling.
Now with growing awareness about plastic pollution, citizens in most US cities are consciously making an effort to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers and other items into recycling bins. But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government.
And it’s a situation being replicated across the US.
China’s recycling ban means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.