Climate Action

US asks China to reconsider ban on foreign waste

The United States has requested China end its recent ban on receiving garbage from foreign countries, something it says is causing turmoil in the global market.

  • 26 March 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

The United States has requested China end its recent ban on receiving garbage from foreign countries, something it says is causing turmoil in the global market.

At a trade meeting in Geneva on Friday, US representatives said the sudden implementation of the ban in January hasn’t given the industry time to adjust and risks up to 150,000 jobs in the US alone.

“China’s import restrictions on recycled commodities have caused a fundamental disruption in global supply chains for scrap materials, directing them away from productive reuse and toward disposal,” a US representative told the meeting, according to the Reuters news agency.

There is also the suggestion that the ban could be in contravention to World Trade Organisation rules.

 “We request that China immediately halt implementation and revise these measures in a manner consistent with existing international standards for trade in scrap materials, which provide a global framework for transparent and environmentally sound trade in recycled commodities”, the official added.

European Union representatives also made the point that the ban will lead to increased environmental damage as companies will be forced to incinerate garbage, or reroute it to places with less facilities for safe recycling.

The UK is particularly reliant on China for accepting waste; according to data released by Greenpeace, British companies have exported 2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste to the country over the past five years.

Simon Ellin, chief executive of the UK Recycling Association, recently commented that “We have relied on exporting plastic recycling to China for 20 years and now people do not know what is going to happen”.

(“We) are now sitting back and seeing what comes out of the woodwork, but people are very worried”, he added.

The likelihood that China will heed these warnings is in doubt given US President Trump’s new tariffs on imported goods, such as steel and solar panels. The President has also previously spoken of China as being an “economic enemy” of the US.