With China Saying No to Plastic Waste, the World Needs a New Plan

"This is a wake-up call," a University of Georgia researcher said, highlighting the need for new ideas on how to handle plastic trash.
Jun 25, 2018 8:30 PM ET
Juni Kriswanto / AFP - Getty Images file

Originally published by NBC

by Jo Ling Kent, Jim Seida and James Rainey

A global crisis over what to do with millions of tons of discarded plastic and other trash is becoming even more difficult after China decided last year to stop importing much of the waste. In some cases, that means used paper and plastic containers that Americans intend to recycle are actually ending up in landfills, waste company managers say.

China has imported 45 percent of the world's plastic refuse since 1992, allowing many other countries, including the United States, to dodge the question of how to process the unwanted material, a recent study found.

But a Jan. 1 ban by the Chinese government on importing nonindustrial plastic waste, as well as stricter standards for the type of paper waste that is accepted, means much of that material now has no place to go.

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