Many wealthy countries send their recyclable waste overseas because it’s cheap, helps meet recycling targets and reduces domestic landfill.
For developing countries taking in the rubbish, it’s a valuable source of income.
But contaminated plastic and rubbish that cannot be recycled often gets mixed in.
…Only a tiny fraction of all plastics ever produced has been recycled.
Often, materials that can’t be recycled end up being burned illegally, dumped in landfills or waterways, creating risks to the environment and public health.
….Until January 2018, China imported most of the world’s plastic waste.
But due to concerns about contamination and pollution, it declared it would no longer buy recycled plastic scrap that was not 99.5% pure.
…Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey, India and Poland all took up the slack.
…But the rubbish arriving in these countries wasn’t sufficiently recyclable, and it has caused problems.
…”What the citizens of the UK believe they send for recycling is actually dumped in our country,” said Malaysian Minister Yeo Bee Yin.
…However, there is still an overwhelming demand for locations to send plastic and other waste to for recycling, and the challenge of how to dispose of it remains.
…In 2016, 235 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated globally.
On current trends, this could reach 417 million tonnes per year by 2030.