Instead of reshaping domestic waste management, US asks China to lift its scrap waste ban

"We hope that the U.S. can reduce and manage hazardous waste and other waste of its own and take up more duties and obligations."

Image Credit: Green Technology

After a policy shift in China left America to fend for its own trash problem, Washington is asking China to reverse its foreign waste ban, which into affect on Jan. 1.

A U.S. representative speaking at the World Trade Organization’s Council for Trade in Goods said at a meeting in Geneva that China’s new restrictions, which were announced in July of 2017, “have caused a fundamental disruption in global supply chains for scrap materials, directing them away from productive reuse and toward disposal.”

“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 U.S. official said.

On a yearly basis, the U.S. is responsible for sending 13.2 million tons of scrap paper and 1.42 million tons of scrap plastics to China.

But many environmental groups believe this is an opportunity for the U.S. to focus on its own pollution problems and find solutions to “improve and reshape domestic waste management” for one mandating manufacturers “produce less waste,” EcoWatch reported.

Greenpeace is putting pressure on disposable products manufacturers worldwide to “take responsibility for their products through their entire life-cycle and invest in sustainable alternatives,” EcoWatch reported.

“The world cannot continue with the current wasteful consumption model based on infinite growth in a finite world,” Liu Hua, Greenpeace East Asia plastics campaigner, said. “Rather than find new places to export waste, governments and the private sector must find ways to simply reduce the amount of waste we are creating.”

China’s imposed ban is “an effort to reduce the country’s environmental pollution by banning 24 types of imported waste, including plastics, mixed paper, mining slap and discarded textiles,” according to EcoWatch.

While Donald Trump recently referred to China as an “economic enemy” and threatened to impose penalties on Chinese imports including solar panels, steel and aluminum, China responded to the U.S.’ request saying if the “U.S. thought it legitimate to restrict exports of high-tech and high-value-added products, then China’s ban on foreign waste imports was not illegal.”

“The concerns are neither reasonable nor have any legal basis,” Hua Chunying, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said at a daily press conference in direct response to the U.S.’ request.

“Restricting and banning the imports of solid waste is an important measure China has taken to implement the new development concept, improve environmental quality and safeguard people’s health,” Hua said, citing that under the Basel Convention, countries are permitted to restrict the import of foreign waste. “We hope that the U.S. can reduce and manage hazardous waste and other waste of its own and take up more duties and obligations.”

Faced with a growing mountain of waste in the U.S., China shows no sign of reversing its ban on the import of foreign waste.


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Ashley is an editor, social media content manager and writer at NationofChange. Before joining NoC, she was a features reporter at The Daily Breeze – a local newspaper in Southern California – writing a variety of stories on current topics including politics, the economy, human rights, the environment and the arts. Ashley is a transplant from the East Coast calling Los Angeles home.