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The environmental impact of plastic is finally receiving the attention it deserves. This is partly down to the BBC's Blue Planet II highlighting the problem of ocean plastics. But it's also because the Chinese government has recently imposed quality restrictions on the import of recyclable materials, in an attempt to address domestic concerns over pollution and public health.
Beijing's move in effect closes down the export of recyclable plastics, paper and other materials from the world's richest countries. The UK, rest of Europe, US, Australia and others have for a long time been dependent on China to take the poor quality materials that they collect and do not have the infrastructure or capacity to use themselves. Until more recycling plants are built to deal with it domestically, the UK faces a build-up of plastic waste.
Countries - Asia - Quality - Materials - Fix
Other countries in Asia will continue to accept some of the lower quality materials, but this is a temporary fix at best. Sending plastic to India, Vietnam or Cambodia instead of China may limit the amount that has to be stored, placed in landfill or burnt in the UK, but it does nothing to reduce the overall amount of plastic.
We cannot simply rely on the actions of concerned individuals. What's needed goes beyond reusing plastic water bottles, stopping using plastic drinking straws and taking reusable bags to the supermarket.
Here are a few suggestions:
Recycling targets tend to focus on quantity, but the quality of materials collected is just as important. Recycling "quality" refers to how clean and well sorted individual materials are. Poorly sorted materials are referred to as "contaminated", and it is this that China will no longer accept. (If you want to avoid contaminating your recycling collection, check out these top tips).
UK - Quality - Material
If the UK improved the quality of the material collected for recycling, it could still...
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