Responding to China’s ban on Plastic Waste


On December 31st of 2017, China stopped accepting plastic waste from countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. It’s estimated that by 2030, this ban might leave 111 million metric tons of plastic trash without a place to go. There’s no real effective way to deal with the trash we are now stuck with. Other smaller countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam are still accepting trash from larger countries, but they are not large enough to support the amount of plastic waste we create.

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The truth is, the world has a huge trash problem and China’s ban on our plastic waste is only making this more apparent. We’re never going to be able to fully, properly dispose of all our waste, we need a new plan of action.

At first, when I learned of China’s ban, I gave up hope for recycling. I used any kind of waste I wanted, not caring if it was easily recyclable (like glass), instead, I just threw everything away instead of recycling. I figured if nothing would be recycled anyway, then why bother caring about the waste you create? This news made me feel discouraged when it came to waste, but then I realized this is the complete opposite of I should have been feeling.

This ban on plastic waste should be opening our eyes to the true problem: the world’s trash issue. Even before China’s ban on plastic, recycling programs around the world were less effective than we would hope.

How do we respond to this? The only answer is to reduce your waste in as many aspects of your life as you can. Recycling is no longer - and barely ever was - the answer, we must reduce our waste and reuse what we already have. The world needs that now more than ever, and China’s ban last year, and how we’ve faired since then, was just another solemn reminder of the urgency of this issue.

So, as we enter into the second year with this ban from China, let’s stop focusing on the ways in which our governments are failing to provide in terms of waste management. Instead, let’s take it upon ourselves to make a difference. We shouldn’t be expecting China to be cleaning up our messes anyway, we should be learning to create smaller and smaller messes. And the only way for this to happen is if we all individually make the pledge to lower our waste. Instead of hoping China will recycle our containers, reuse them yourself. Instead of wishing for someone to deal with your plastic waste, just stop creating as much. And, instead of feeling discouraged by new laws such as China’s ban on waste, take it upon yourself to make the difference no one else will.

How will you respond?

I’d love to hear about the ways your working to reduce your waste or encourage recycling!


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