China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016, according to recent industry data. Last July, China notified the World Trade Organization that it intended to ban some imports of trash, saying the action was needed to protect the environment and improve public health.
“Large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials,” Beijing wrote to the W.T.O. “This polluted China’s environment seriously.”
Chinese officials also complained that much of the recyclable material the country received from overseas had not been properly cleaned or was mixed with non-recyclable materials.
The sudden move has left Western countries scrambling to deal with a buildup of plastic and paper garbage while looking for new markets for the waste.
Source: NYT 1/12/18.