Current influence of China’s ban on plastic waste imports


The current global production of plastics is over 300 million tons, 20% of which is produced in China. It has been estimated that about 90% of the discarded plastics are not recycled. China was the world’s leading importer of waste plastics, while since January 1, 2018, China’s import ban on waste plastics has been put into force, which has had a far-reaching effect on global plastic production and solid waste management. Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia have replaced China as the leading importer of plastic wastes. As the main exporter of waste plastics, EU has released strategy and initiative about plastics to restrict the use of micro plastics and single-use plastics. Meanwhile main European counties like UK, German and France have also taken own active measures to realize the control of packaging waste and non-recycled plastic and the recycling of plastic wastes in several years. As For the US, some areas such as Seattle and San Francisco have positively responded to the global trend of plastic ban. However, the controversy over “plastic restriction” in the whole state obstructed the promulgation and implementation of the national plastic ban. On the whole, major companies and more than 60 countries all over the world have introduced levies or bans to combat single-use plastic wastes. The Chinese government began to rectify the domestic waste plastics market and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China has clarified the threshold of waste plastic treatment capacity for key enterprises. In addition to landfill, direct recovery and waste to energy processes are the main disposal methods of waste plastics. Thermoplastics like PE, PP and PET that are sorted out from the waste stream by citizens can be directly recycled to the primary material. The mixed waste plastics can be used as fuel in waste to energy plants, or as feedstock to pyrolysis plants that transform them to high value-added oil or chemical materials, which are more promising disposal methods of waste plastics.

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Acknowledgment is gratefully extended to the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2018YFC1901300).

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Correspondence to Qunxing Huang.

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Wang, W., Themelis, N.J., Sun, K. et al. Current influence of China’s ban on plastic waste imports. Waste Dispos. Sustain. Energy 1, 67–78 (2019).

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  • Waste plastics
  • China
  • Ban
  • Import
  • Pyrolysis