With the world’s population continuing to rise, the amount of waste we produce is also rising and is one of the biggest threats to the planet today.
Despite advances in recycling technology which help to improve the situation, it is apparent that recycling isn’t as simple as people are led to believe.
Most of us assume that the plastic we put in the cycling bin gets taken to recycling plants and then turned into other plastic items to be reused. But in fact, a lot of this plastic is getting exported to other nations for them to deal with.
Most of the plastic waste produced by the United States has ended up being shipped out to other countries, primarily in Asia. This exporting of trash allows countries to hit their recycling targets and reduces the amount of waste in domestic landfills, but it causes huge problems for the poorer countries at the receiving end of it.
They have to throw a lot of this waste into landfills which poisons the environment and sometimes plastics will be burnt illegally, releasing toxic fumes into the air.
In 2017 China banned the import of mixed plastic and mixed paper because of all the problems caused by taking in so much waste from other countries. Malaysia then became the next primary receiver of garbage from the Western world.
This didn’t go down too well with the Malaysian citizens, who started to protest until their government began to start sending the trash back where it came from. They didn’t want to accept their new role as the world’s landfill.
In response to this, Waste Management Inc, who are the biggest garbage collection company in the US, has announced that it will stop exporting plastic waste abroad.
The company which sells 77% of it’s recyclable materials, including paper and plastic, announced that plastic exports dwindled to zero in 2019.
Their statement also said:
“In response to concerns about plastic in the environment, Waste Management is not shipping plastics collected on its residential recycling routes and processed in its single stream material recovery facilities to locations outside North America. The company is working to help establish responsible domestic markets for recycling and beneficial use of these materials.”
They have committed to disposing of all excess materials responsibly as they intend to become more eco-friendly and do what they can to protect the planet.
Other big trash management companies such as Waste Connections, Republic Services, and Casella Waste Systems, have also announced that they are stopping the export of trash to other countries.
This comes as great news to environmental organizations. John Hocevar of Greenpeace USA said “Companies should not be exporting plastic waste for other countries to clean up our mess”. The organization also stated that Waste Management Inc and the other companies had “made the right call”.