Will China continue to recycle our waste?
I had not realized that China has been willing to pay for and to recycle a lot of European, Japanese, Australian and American garbage into, for example, carpets and pipes. It recycled 56% of the world’s plastics and also bought millions of tons of scrap metal and waste paper every year from overseas.
But now China does not want so much waste shipped to it, partly because it is richer and can afford to buy new materials, such as plastics, for manufacturing. It also complains that a lot of the garbage had been insufficiently sorted and thus often contained filthy and hazardous materials. Therefore, it is restricting the categories of garbage that it will buy.
This has many implications for garbage collection in the countries that could previously rely on selling large amounts of their waste to China. The external costs of packaging, consuming, and manufacturing have increased significantly. Recycling and sorting machines will need to be improved. Households and firms will need to be told to lower the amount of garbage they chuck out and to improve and/or refine their sorting into different categories. Maybe, in the long run, this is good for us all and for the globe, if we are made more aware of the true costs of rubbish.