In Brief

Total ban on imports of rubbish to China piles pressure on Asian neighbours

Veto on accepting overseas junk marks culmination of three-year reduction policy

China is halting all waste imports from overseas to its shores from next month, in a move expected to see foreign countries instead dumping tonnes of rubbish on poorer Asian nations.

Beijing has confirmed that as of 1 January, China will no longer accept “waste plastic, scrap paper, textiles and some other products”, ending exemptions to a partial ban enacted in 2017, The Times reports.

Since the 1980s, China has accepted vast quantities of waste products from foreign nations, with the US, Japan and Germany among the biggest exporters. 

Indeed, China has been the “world’s largest importer of rubbish” for years, France 24 reports. Some of this waste has been cleaned, crushed and developed into raw materials for the Asian superpower’s exploding industrialist industry.

But the vast amounts of rubbish deposited on Chinese shores has “often lead to pollution when the materials cannot be recycled or disposed of properly”, the news site continues. Fed up with being “the world’s rubbish bin”, the government began to “close China’s doors to foreign waste” in January 2018.

Three years later, Beijing is poised to implement a total ban on dumping, storage and disposal of waste products from overseas on Chinese territory. The importation of recycled materials processed outside China will still be permitted, however, “so that manufacturers still have access to resources”, says The Times.

China’s solid waste imports have already decreased significantly as a result of the reduction policy. The country imported 13.48 million tonnes of junk last year - a 40% decrease on 2018.

Most of the surplus junk is going to countries in southeast Asia, “where many of the recycling facilities are owned by Chinese companies”, the paper reports.

And following the implementation of the total ban, the flow of rubbish is expected to intensify to poorer nations within China’s immediate orbit, including India, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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