Every year, nations generate 1.3 billion tons of waste. The figure is expected to rise up to 4 billion by 2100 and sadly, Americans are the champions when it comes to throwing away trash.
The country tosses newspapers, Amazon boxes and bottles in recycling, every year. Perhaps, that is why the United States enjoys a giant trade surplus in scrap, including household recycling, says the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc.
“We’re like the Saudi Arabia of scrap,” said the trade group’s chief economist, Joe Pickard.
For years, the United States exported almost one-third of its recycling to Asian countries. In fact, nearly half of it was going to China, which has been the largest importer of many kinds of recyclable materials.
But the country doesn’t want American trash anymore.
China declared that this "foreign waste" includes too many other nonrecyclable materials, mostly paper and plastic, that are "dirty," even "hazardous." In a filing with the World Trade Organization the country listed 24 kinds of solid wastes it would ban "to protect China's environmental interests and people's health."
The U.S. exported $16.5 billion in scrap last year, the scrap institute says, which is more than any other country. Paper and plastic were about $3.9 billion of that.
The ban is a major cause of concern for Americans. U.S. waste companies and trade groups have submitted comments to the WTO saying the speed with which China wants to implement the rules will cause chaos for the industry.
For now, all the recycling can be dumped at local landfills, but this solution is not ideal, because even the best-run landfills can stress the environment.
Thumbnail / Banner: Pixabay, RitaE