The great trash debate – various

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The revelation by a minister in the UK earlier this week that the volume of Britain’s trash shipments to China have increased nearly 160-fold in the last decade prompted calls from the Liberal Democrats for the country to take care of more of its own recycling. Now it seems China it also looking into the matter.

From the Independent:

A combination of the global economy and the boom in recycling in Britain, which last year generated nearly 7 million tonnes of recyclable waste, has created an inter-continental trade worth £460m. Last year, Britain sent more than 200,000 tonnes of plastic to China for recycling, along with 2 million tonnes of used paper or cardboard and large quantities of steel and redundant electrical goods.

It is a market generated by Britain’s lack of capacity to cope with its own recycled waste and, more importantly, the thirst of China for “raw” materials, such as used plastic, to feed its booming economy.

…But the waste trade is not always virtuous. The Environment Agency has prosecuted several companies for attempting to export “green” paper waste mixed with normal municipal rubbish. [Full Text]

According to various reports, “Hurricane” Pan et al. in the Beijing environmental protection establishment are none to happy about the news. “Driven by profits, some dealers collaborate with overseas law breakers and illegally smuggle or import rubbish into China, causing damage to people’s health and to the environment,” reads a statement from an unnamed State Environmental Protection Administration official posted on the agency’s website (translated by Reuters)

Reuters also quotes a China Daily as saying China has plans to crack down on the illegal trash trade, although no specifics are mentioned.

As evidence of the deleterious effects of this imported detritus, the story cites the case of Guiyu, a recycling town in Guangdong with no potable water where 80 percent of the children suffer from lead poisoning.

[Photo: An e-waste recycling worker rides atop a stack of discarded computer consoles in Guiyu, Guandong. By phauly.]

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