23 Jun 2022

China is one of the biggest traffic hubs on the planet, with millions of export items being sent through this country every day. From new products to waste, China sees a great stream of items being brought through their ports, and they have improved their rules for the benefit of the planet.

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In early 2012, China announced that it would be enforcing stricter environmental policies for the hundreds of millions of tons of recyclable waste that travels through the country every year. These policies are still in place today and have changed the way that Europe and the United States handle recycling.

Too Much Trash In China

China has been the top buyer of US and European recycling trash for the past decade, and all of this work came to a head in 2012 when the country announced it was too much.

The government of China announced in 2012 that there was too much trash being shipped into their country, along with plastic, paper, and scrap metal debris.

Before this announcement, recycling companies in Europe and the United States could get away with shipping large loads of unorganized recycling trash to China. While the waste may have been marked as recyclable, it was usually mixed with other materials, including trash that could not be recycled, making it difficult to dispose of anything correctly.

At one point, Chinese waste management workers could expect as much as 20% of a single shipment of trash to contain non-recyclable items, including unwashed food containers and other contaminated debris.

The net result of this issue caused more pollution in China and a lot more trash in the country.

The New Policies For Recycling

The new policies that were first announced in 2012 have seen rigorous inspections of all trash which comes into China from the US and European countries.

These policies claim that all waste containers sent to the Chinese shores must be inspected fully, and shipments can be refused if they contain too much trash or the wrong kind of plastic. With these new guidelines, recyclers in the West have had to reconsider the way they handled waste and find new companies to sell to.

It was reported at the time that these stricter policies were not predicted to last in China due to the growing economic pressure they would cause. As China does not have as many resources of its own, compared to the US and European countries, it relies on scrap metal and plastic debris from other countries. These materials are then used to produce a variety of items across China which can then be shipped elsewhere in the world, including everything from clothing to vehicles.

Some of the rules still apply, and while the policies may not be as strict as they once were, it has encouraged recyclers across Europe and the US to reconsider their ways.

The Global Response To Policy Changes

The announcement of these recycling changes did cause a stir in the global market, especially in the United States and Europe. These changes would make things more difficult for counties outside of China to ship off their unorganized waste, which caused a stir among recyclers due to the increasing cost and time it would lead to.

Despite the initial stir, many people have praised China for taking a stand, and many companies across the industry did welcome the change and continue to do so.

The companies that struggled the most with these new policy changes in 2012 were the ones that relied on shortcuts in the first place. The change in policies would only impact companies who were shipping unorganized and mixed trash to China, but those who worked with the environment in mind would not be impacted.

Companies can no longer rely on shortcuts when it comes to recycling and disposing of waste in general, which is something that many in the industry have praised.

As disposing of waste was now going to be more controlled, through these new changes at the Chinese borders, all recyclers have had to change their ways to keep things running. These changes can be incredibly beneficial for the environment as recycling companies require stricter rules for the disposal of select materials.

Mixed waste cannot be given to the Chinese shores anymore, which means for things to keep working as they always have, companies in the US and Europe need to change things at home too. 

With greater care in separating trash and making sure only recycled materials are being collected in this manner, the environment is going to benefit greatly.

How To Recycle Better

While it was almost a decade ago that China announced these new policies, it is very likely, the way you handle recycling is still affected today.

There will be regulations and rules in place determining what can be recycled in your local area. If you rely on curbside recycling, then you will most likely have a set of regulations in place determining what can be thrown in this trashcan and what can be disposed of by your local authority.

Making sure you follow these rules is vital not only for your local authorities but also for the greater environment. We all have a part to play when it comes to taking care of the environment, and being better when it comes to separating waste and recycling materials is a step in the right direction.