June 7, 2018

Thanks China 🇨🇳

Our take on China’s “war on foreign plastic garbage”


Finally, someone has been shaking the grounds of a fallacious and complacent system, the recycling of plastic. Beginning in January 2018 China has banned any import of “foreign plastic garbage”. Meaning most of the plastic you’ve been so fondly recycling (because you are recycling plastic at home, right? 😳), will be piling up in ports across the west waiting to be found a suitable place to be sent to. Because, in case you didn’t know yet, only a tiny portion of plastic is actually recycled in Europe, most of it is sold overseas.


For decades “developed” countries have been using China (and more generally South East Asia) as their backyard dumpsite while continuing to create ever more plastic waste (some even sneakily consider this export as recycling, including it in their annual figures). More than half of all plastic waste produced by Europe and US was sent to China alone, a country with (until now) less environmental regulations. Not only this country lacks the proper legislation, technology and mindset to deal with their own waste, they also receive mountains of waste from the West, each and every day. Oh, and if this wasn’t enough, the west also tends to put the blame on South East Asia for being the primary source of ocean pollution. Hypocrites.


Well, now China stopped playing this game. Waste is piling up in the west. And “developed countries” (excluding @davehakkens 😝) don’t like waste on their homeland. They like their mountains clean and beaches pristine. But their plastic waste keeps growing. Where to go from here?



Option 1
The more short-sighted, profit-oriented and capitalist solution that will change little is to simply change dumpsite. Did China ban foreign plastic? Easy, go to the next poor countries with little regulation and dump there your trash for small bribes to the local corrupt politicians. We have seen this patterns happening with fashion, product and tech industry. Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia all saw huge spikes in plastic import since the beginning of the year. This approach also leaves Westerners untouched, carrying on (💩)business as usual. Or well, they might have to update the country they point their blaming finger to.


Option 2
The West starts to question and rethink how they do things. From the ground up. I am talking state level, but also personal level (yes, you!). No more excuses. Drastically reduce single-use plastic. Now. Alongside reducing the production of waste we’ll have to improve recycling strategies and technologies, which both come with their own challenges and dilemmas but as long as we count on externalising our problems very little will be solved. Deal with your own 💩. The sooner we start the sooner we’ll find solutions. Solutions are there, they’re simply not investigated enough.


And Precious Plastic?
For Precious Plastic and our community, this plastic ban can represent a great opportunity. Materializing the shift from mass scale industrial recycling to small-scale, local recycling. This could (if scaled properly) create a resilient network of small-scale local recycling stations to deal with our own 💩 back home reducing plastic waste while creating jobs and opportunities. Alongside educating society on the risks involved with carrying on business as usual.


Slow > Reduce > Break
The more you work on Precious Plastic and recycling in general, the more it becomes clear what a ginormous task it would be to recycle all the plastic produced globally. Even if we would get a million people working on Precious Plastic it would still be a super hard task to process the huge amount of plastic waste created. The only viable solution ahead of us is to, while keep working on improving our recycling process and strategies, drastically slow consumption of single-use plastic, which will reduce demand of it and consequentially break production. Numbers is the only law they listen to. Let’s changed the game. From now.


Start now, not tomorrow.
There is no more time to postpone this. Dave, me and the team at Precious Plastic is already working on this. We try hard every day to refuse all single-use plastic that (sickeningly) naturally comes our way. Ain’t easy.But we fight back. I personally start 3 to 5 arguments a week with people that try to force me into accepting single-use plastic. I have bought zero plastic bottles or bags since the beginning of the year. Dave too. And you? Will you be next?


Sing it aloud with me. Pinky promise that from this exact moment I will do whatever I can not to buy (or accept) disposable plastic. Comment this little emoji 🤞  alongside your ideas and tips if you’re in!


Make yourself heard
This is a very sensitive topic for everyone at Precious Plastic. We very much feel for it. What do you think? Let us know in the comment below how you would tackle the problem. Oh, and don’t forget to show your