China Refuses to Take United States Trash

Sara Boddie, Writer

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For more than 25 years, many countries, including the U.S, have been sending enormous amounts of plastic waste to China, rather than recycling it on their own; although in 2017, China passed a policy banning plastic waste from being imported, scheduled to start in January of 2018. It’s called the National Sword policy and was created for the protection of the environment and people’s health. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These cities now have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away. Most are choosing the latter.

This end of recycling comes at a time when the United States is creating more waste than ever. In 2015, the most recent year for which national data are available, America generated 262.4 million tons of waste, up 4.5 percent from 2010 and 60 percent from 1985. The costs of all this garbage are growing.

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The first problem is the environmental cost. When organic waste sits in a landfill, it decomposes, emitting methane, which is bad for the climate. Many incineration facilities say they’re “waste to energy” plants, although studies have found that they release more harmful chemicals, such as mercury and lead, into the air than do coal plants. The second difficulty is financial issues. The United States still has a fair amount of landfill space left, but it’s getting expensive to ship waste hundreds of miles to those landfills. Some dumps are raising costs to deal with all this extra waste; according to one estimate, along the West Coast, landfill fees increased by $8 a ton from 2017 to 2018.

New Chinese policies about the containment level of imported trash have caused Americans all around the country scrambling for a solution. Environmental and financial problems are arising as there is still no definite solution to the adversity. What does this mean for the future? Where will our trash be exported to? Stated by many experts, ‘only time will tell.’

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