The Chinese import ban and its impact on global plastic waste trade

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Science Advances  20 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaat0131
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0131

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  • RE: Global responsibility for waste disposal
    • Chang Wang, Professor, School of Business, Central South University; Laboratory of Strategic Studies, Ministry of Land and Resources
    • Other Contributors:
      • Pengwei He, PhD candidate, School of Business, Central South University; School of Engineering, The University of British Columbia
      • Lyushui Zuo, PhD candidate, School of Business, Central South University; Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland

    Recently, China’s ban on imports of solid waste from foreign countries has resulted in cascading impacts to the existing global waste recycling chain.

    Developed countries, such as the United States, claim that China’s decision to ban imports is fundamentally “damaging” the global waste supply chain. But, are these claims really true?

    For many years, developed countries have dumped their solid waste in developing countries for “reuse”. In Asia, China has been one of the major recipients of these dumped goods. China has accumulatively imported 45% of global plastic waste since 1992 [1], and approximately 70% of the world’s e-waste currently ends up in China [2]. China’s recent ban on solid waste imports brings an end to the era of China as the world’s dumping ground, and also provides an opportunity to rethink the current waste disposal paradigm.

    One potential solution is to develop an awareness of global responsibility for waste disposal, following the basic principles of whoever produces waste shall be responsible for its disposal, and whoever causes pollution shall be responsible for its elimination. In addition, international cooperation is needed to manage global waste disposal. A universally accepted quality standard and a formal global protocol on waste trading needs to be developed. Only waste meeting these developed standards should enter the global cycle, preventing waste-related pollution transfer. Furthermore, all countries should increase t...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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