What should wealthy countries do with their plastic waste now that China no longer is buying it? For years, America sold millions of tons of used yogurt cups, juice containers, shampoo bottles and other kinds of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products.
And it wasn’t just the U.S. Some 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste went to China – about 7 million tons a year. Numerous Chinese millionaires were minted as recycling businesses started and blossomed. Sure, they paid for the world’s plastic and paper trash, but they made far more money from processing it and selling the resulting raw materials.
New dumping destinations aren’t likely to last. Already, Vietnam and Malaysia are cutting back imports of scrap plastic because they are overwhelmed. They can’t handle the huge diversion of plastic to their countries since China shut out imports.
Recycling experts say it’s a time of reckoning for their industry and that wealthy countries need to stop exporting to countries that can’t handle it. That leaves America with a recycling problem and here’s how to solve it.