UK's future is rubbish as China bans plastic imports

China has decided to cut down on millions of tons of plastic and other recyclables it receives every year. The move is turning global trade on its head and is bound to create waste mountains in the West. 

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Source: Wikitribune
UK's future is rubbish as China bans plastic imports - NewsMavens
Waste mountain. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The remarkable turn of events is key to the future of rubbish in the world, particularly in the West, as we generate more and more waste with nowhere to go.

Waste recyclers in the United Kingdom and the United States are now forced to bury, store or incinerate material. This has already triggered a collapse in global prices for recyclable waste outside China.

Some British retailers and bars are reducing waste by repackaging items in recyclable materials and buying in paper, instead of plastic, cups, straws, and carrier bags. But many Brits are yet to fully commit to energy-conserving and waste-saving measures.

If we are not all "doing our bit" so to speak, our oceans will continue to be overwhelmed by plastic waste, and landfill piles will go on turning into mountains.

Let's think about it next time we plan a synthetic purchase -- is plastic so fantastic?

environment, politics, economy

Details from the story:

  • China has banned 24 kinds of solid waste from the start of this year.
  • According to Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), China used to import 55% of the UK’s exported recovered plastics in 2016.
  • President Xi Jinping pledged a “Beautiful China” during his 2017 party congress speech, while in its WTO filing, Beijing declared it was no longer willing to accept large amounts of mixed-in hazardous waste.
  • “The Chinese have totally pulled the rug from underneath everything," comments Craig Curtis, the fourth-generation owner of a UK recycling company.
  • Greenpeace urges less plastic to be made in the first place.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at