July 11, 2018.
Until 2018, China had earned itself the reputation of being the trash receptacle for most of the western world’s recycling. Starting January 1st, however, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection put into play a ban on 24 common types of solid waste, and as of April, added an additional 32 types to be implemented by 2019, due to national environmental and public health concerns. What may have triggered this change in attitude away from being receptive to yang lajiis the release of Wang Jiuliang’s critically acclaimed documentary, “Plastic China,” which spotlighted the growing contamination issue that came as a result of China’s desperation for raw materials. China was accepting anything and everything, regardless of its quality or purity, and, in spite of its neglect in managing its own waste in major cities like Shanghai.
Now, China has left the world scrambling for a solution.
So, how did the world go from having a working system of importing and exporting recycled goods to scrambling for an answer in what could have been a mutually beneficial arrangement?
The “Green Fence”
Operation Green Fence was a 10-month policy that set standards for contamination levels in recycled materials as early as 2013. As of 2017, exporting countries still had not met these standards, so Beijing sent yet another message to the World Trade Organization about the dirty to hazardous wastes mixed into the solid waste sent as raw material, which has been polluting China’s environment. The crackdown seems to have taken the world by storm as China made good on its promise at the beginning of 2018 in what has been called China’s “National Sword” when custom officials started enforcing the restrictions.
According to Waste360, the leading informer on solid wastes, recycling and organics, the ban includes:
-Plastic waste from living sources
-Waste textile materials
-Slag, dross (other than granulated slag), scalings and other waste from the manufacture of iron or steel
-Ash and residues (other than from the manufacture of iron or steel), containing arsenic, metals or their compounds
-Waste, parings and scrap, of plastics
-Waste of wool or of fine or coarse animal hair, including yarn waste but excluding garnetted stock
-Garnetted stock of wool or of fine or coarse animal hair
-Cotton waste (including yarn waste and garnetted stock)
-Waste (including noils, yarn waste and garnetted stock) of man-made fibers
-Used or new rags, scrap twine, cordage, rope and cables and worn out articles of twine, cordage, rope or cables, of textile materials
-Other, including unsorted waste and scrap
These restrictions take into account a bigger picture environmental perspective in which China has not only been accepting too much waste into their country via single-stream programs like the one the USA currently has, but has also been the final destination point for what does not simple just go away because it’s sent out of sight, out of mind.
Before the ban, China imported over half of the world’s paper, plastic and metals, processed correctly or not–a then booming industry for American exporters. On March 1st, China implemented an impurity threshold of 0.5 percent for both mixed papers and plastics.
The “National Sword”
Many see China’s National Sword as an attack on recycling infrastructures, since those the policy impacts most are the more environmentally-friendly states and countries. In Oregon, Washington and California, there are already bans or taxes on certain plastics, such as the plastic bags that make the news so frequently for getting stuck around the noses of dolphins and turtles. As a result of China’s National Sword, these states have had to open up landfills as a temporary solution, though some in the recycling industry are setting aside the recyclables in hopes of another solution before burying more trash that may not be dredged up for proper disposal later.
Other short-term solutions include the exportation of a limited amount of the materials to the lesser established countries of India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam getting started in the recycling industry. What this solution does not quite solve is the failure of the exporters to process the recyclables correctly, nor the problematic nature of the fact that not enough of this trash is being recycled for reuse instead of ending up in garbage piles so high they could be seen from the moon. What happens when those countries, too, reach a point of middle-class wealth where things are tossed without a thought after a one-time use and have to come to terms with managing their own waste like Shanghai?
Junk Removal in the USA
Where all this gets especially complicated for the USA is keeping up on all the new rules and regulations. That’s not something everyone can be expected to know how to do, but it is something everyone must do in order for us to have a sustainable future.
Since China has become stricter on what it’s willing to accept, New York and other major cities have had to expand their programs for recycling. Companies like GrowNYC focus on textile recycling and composts in their efforts to minimize damage to the environment. The Department of Sanitation, too, has its own nonprofit program, Housing Works, for recycling textiles. Another option for textiles, among other things in the solid waste group that China is no longer willing to accept, is Jiffy Junk. Additionally, Jiffy Junk deals with furniture, carpet and flooring, appliances and electronics, and adheres to all disposal laws.
Of course, junk removal in the USA is not simply the hauling away of things. That is why the Jiffy Junk team is licensed and insured and can be expected to have the right equipment for the task, whether it be the hauling away of junk, the deep cleaning of an estate after a death or foreclosure, or the disconnecting and disposing of a hot tub by eco-friendly standards. Jiffy Junk has got you covered.
Let’s look to our junk haulers and innovating our recycling for our future, just like China is theirs.