China was many years the main waste importer of the world. It is estimated that between 1992 and 2017 the Asian Giant received almost the half of the plastic waste that were produced in the world. Only in 2016, China imported 7.35 millions of tons of waste from 43 different countries.
China was then a final destiny whom developed countries could send the waste without almost any regulation. Nevertheless, this scenario changed abruptly the 1st of January 2018, with the new Chinese regulation which forbade the importation of external waste to China.
Asia: Destination of the export of waste
In the face of the continuous increase of the waste internally generated, China has blocked the entry of 24 categories of solid waste, including certain types of plastics, paper and textile. This decision has impacted all over the world and has affected recycling operations in the developed countries, which struggles to deal with the new landscape. China’s ban has been a wake-up call but has also provided an opportunity to improve domestic waste management as well as to invest in technology and new initiatives.
Some developed countries have reacted to the ban by sending their waste to other countries in South-East Asia, such as Thailand and Malaysia. For example, according to the Financial Times, after the China’s ban, UK’s waste exports to Malaysia tripled.
Even some Chinese waste recycling companies have opened factories in nearly countries to take advantage of this business relocation. But these countries do not have the capacity to handle this amount of waste and they are already considering imposing their own restrictions. For example, Thailand plans to impose a blockade from next year.
Apart from that, Asia has five of the most marine waste producing countries in the world and sending more waste to these locations will worsen the problem of pollution in the oceans.
Recycling management: An opportunity to generate wealth
In order to move away from relying on export markets for recycling, many other countries are choosing to invest in building their own plants and innovate in plastic manufacturing to make more suitable products for re-use.
One of the key challenges is to ensure that waste is better classified, recovered and therefore less likely to end up abandoned in the environment.
A positive side effect of the China’s ban has been that it was focused attention on the need to establish a circular economy, where resources such as plastics are kept in use for as long as possible and where a drastic reduction in the shipment of waste to landfill is achieved while increasing the recycling and recoverable materials.
European authorities have recognised the inbuilt value of waste and the opportunities for investment and job creation that waste presents. Accordingly, the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy consider that it drives to make all plastic packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030 could create 200.000 jobs.
In this new paradigm, SPR Group is an industrial group that provides and integrates technology in form of integrated solutions for the management and recovery of waste worldwide, with an activity specially focused on the industry (cement, paper, steel, etc). Its slogan, “Waste to energy “– “Waste to Value”.