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Plastic Waste Piles Up as China’s Ban Goes Into Effect

What will the U.S. do now with the plastic China won’t take?

 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF RECOLOGY

 BY KATHERINE WEI | FEB 3 2018

If you were at Dolores Park in San Francisco last weekend enjoying a bottle of water, chances are the bottle ended up at Pier 96 not long after you tossed it into a recycling bin. That’s where much of the city’s discarded recycling waste piles up—in giant bales of neatly bound cardboard and plastic scrap, sitting in an empty parking lot just off the pier. The cardboard bales will be shipped off to China in a shipping container for recycling. The plastic water bottles and other scrap will continue to sit there, however, waiting for another country willing to take them.

That’s because China has decided to crack down on the quality of plastic scrap imported from overseas—the yang la-ji, a crass, blanket term government officials have been calling imported scrap. It translates literally to “foreign trash.”

In July 2017, China filed a notice with the World Trade Organization announcing its decision to stop importing 24 types of foreign waste and to dramatically tighten its standards for impurities in scrap bales. In the official notice, China’s Ministry of Environment Protection said, “We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This has polluted China’s environment seriously.”

Before the announcement, China allowed 5 percent of impurities in imported bales of plastic. The new, 0.5-percent threshold has proven impossible for U.S. facilities in the short-term, leaving recycling operators scrambling for alternatives.

“We worked hard to make sure our bales contain less than 5 percent of impurities, and sometimes lower than 4,” said Robert Reed, who is part of the team that runs Recology San Francisco near Pier 96.

The ban went into effect in 2018, with a transitional period of five months for its scrap trade partners. WTO members that rely heavily on China’s role in the international waste trade protested in meetings following the announcement; the United States, the E.U., Japan, Australia, and Canada all asked for a longer transitional period of up to five years.

China is already carrying out the ban anyway, which has caused a flurry of panic through the international waste trade. “China practically gave us no time to adjust, no time to transition,” said Adina Adler, a senior official at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. It takes at least two months for a scrap shipment to go from the United States to China; the last bales that the U.S. was able to get out of the country without facing rejection at China’s ports were shipped from September to October, making the ban effective three months after the announcement.

The lack of instructions from China also didn’t help. There is scrap piling up in storage facilities on the West Coast, waiting to be redirected to domestic or foreign facilities, or waiting indefinitely for the regulations to relax. This in turn is taking a toll on the facilities’ budgets; some have informed local residents that they are no longer taking in plastic items and that plastic has been going to landfill instead, according to Adler.

In the official notice China filed with the WTO, the banned types of scrap include “plastics waste from living sources, vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper, and waste textile materials.” But no further explanation was given, and there were no clear examples for exporting facilities on what they are allowed to ship and what they aren’t. The government has also announced a plan to completely ban plastic waste imports in 2019.

China became the world’s main solid waste importer in the 1980s, when it needed cheap raw materials to feed its growing economy. But in recent years, the government has pointed to environmental damage caused by the trade and unwonted smuggling of illegal scraps. China hasn’t made clear exactly what it means by environmental damage. However, one of the heaviest polluted regions in China, Guiyu, a small town in the Guangdong Province, is said to take in the most electronic waste in the world. Once primarily reliant on rice-planting before 1995, the coastal village had transformed into a huge e-waste processing hub by 2013 for economic reasons. Rice no longer grew because the water and air became severely polluted from burning plastic.

In 2013, officials launched the Green Fence campaign, which prohibited unsorted shipments of recyclables from overseas. In March 2017, China also launched the National Sword initiative, a project that led to detailed investigations at nine major ports known for the daily incoming cargo of foreign scrap.

“In periods of development in the past, parts of imported solid waste have served (China) to some extent, but as China advances economically and socially, we see problems exposed in importing solid waste for raw materials,” said Guo Jiang, the head of the environment protection ministry’s Department of International Cooperation. “Especially the yang la-ji. Everyone has something negative to say about it.”

The United States in particular has been hit hard by the ban, thanks to a lack of domestic plastic processing facilities nationwide. There hasn’t been a new recycling plant built in the U.S. since 2003. Meanwhile, Americans throw away an average of 35 billion plastic bottles every year. Up to 40 percent of U.S. scrap exports used to go to China. What happens next?

For now, your bottle and its plastic companions are going to Vietnam or Malaysia. Scrap exports from September 2017 through January 2018, compared to the same period of time in 2016, shows a 95 percent increase of scrap paper going to Vietnam, and a 138 percent increase in plastic scrap going to Malaysia. For that same period, there was a 17.8 percent drop in plastic scrap export from the United States to China.

“We are working very hard with the city of San Francisco and our customers to meet China’s new standards, but after November 2017, our plastic bales have been redirected to Southeast Asia,” said Reed, who hopes that the Chinese government will relax its new regulations.

Inside China, the scrap industry is also seeing fissures after the government crackdown. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection investigated 1,800 recycling facilities last year to see if they followed environmental laws regarding imported scrap, but over half were found to be violating said laws. “These companies either went out of business or lost their import licenses temporarily,” said Adler. This also contributed to the chaos in the global scrap trade, because these licenses not only gave the facilities permission to import foreign scrap, they also determined how much each facility is allowed to import. Once taken away, the losses are huge.

Even more companies were denied licenses this year, said Steve Wong, the owner of the plastic recycling company Fukutomi in Hong Kong. “The number of the first batch of import permits granted in 2018 was released at the end of December. The number is down by nearly 95 percent in comparison to last year,” said Wong.

There is still no official plan on how to deal with the excess scrap piling up in places like San Francisco’s Pier 96, but recyclers are trying to identify domestic options rather than going overseas. “There are resources in the U.S. and Canada that people are starting to scout out now,” said Adler.

Wong agrees. “The amount Southeast Asian countries are taking is small compared to what the U.S. is used to exporting. I’m planning to open a facility in the U.S. to help combat the problem.”

 

Source: Plastic Waste Piles Up as China’s Ban Goes Into Effect

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Happy Environment Day 2015 World..!!

Happy World Environment Day

World Environment day is celebrated on 5 June every year to raise global awareness to take positive environmental action  and reduce negative impact to protect the planet earth. People organise various programs globally to mark this day. Ideally, we should be grateful to environment every day  and should curtail any actions that have adverse impact on the environment and not limit our action to only one day of the year. However on this special day, we take this opportunity to thank and honour environment for all the privileges it has provided to us all. The theme for this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care” in short  “live sustainably”. Due to urbanisation and modern lifestyle, people are consuming more products than ever and subsequently creating more waste. In order to meet the growing demand of ever increasing population, we are not only exploiting our valuable natural resources but also limiting the access to these resources for our future generation through over extraction and pollution.

Below are  5 simple yet doable things that we can opt in our daily life to live sustainable life. What better day can there be to start this than today… Happy World Environment Day World!!

Reduce your Waste:

sort your waste

1.Before buying anything , THINK and identify if you really need or just want that item. Don’t buy if you don’t need them.

2.Reduce your waste by refusing, reusing and recycling the waste.

3.Put your household waste in the appropriate bin provided for general waste, recyclables and green waste so that more waste is diverted from landfill.

Save Water:

save water

4.Turn off the taps when not in use especially while brushing your teeth or shaving

5.Fix all the leaks including taps and toilets.

6.Take shorter shower and minimise the use of bath tub.

Save Energy

save energy

7.Turn off the light when not in use and replace your bulbs with CFLs

8.Use your washing machine only when it is full load and go for cold washes.Dry your clothes in the sun rather than dryers.

9.Make sure your refrigerator is in good condition. Get rid of second fridge or only use when required

Grow Your Own:

grow your own

10.Grow your own vegetables or buy locally grown food to reduce food miles and stay healthy.

11.Use natural pest controls and minimise the use of harmful chemicals

12.Turn your organic waste from garden and kitchen into compost and use them in your garden

An inspiring story…”She Hasn’t Made Any Trash In 2 Years. This Is What Her Life Is Like”

What an inspiration she is!! Such a wonderful life she is living and so much to learn from. It is high time that we all start doing what we could on our part to reduce the impact of our actions on the planet earth. I am doing my bit to live a sustainable life and this article serve as a fuel to motivate me to go further. Here is to living best lives we can.

SHE HASN’T MADE ANY TRASH IN 2 YEARS. THIS IS WHAT HER LIFE IS LIKE

November 23, 2014 by Joe Martino.

Lauren

What if you could live without producing any trash? Would you do it? At first you might think this is impossible or very hard, and it may very well be depending on your life situation. But one inspiring girl is not only doing this, but sharing how we can all try doing the same thing as well.

Eliminating Trash
Not long ago we covered a story about a restaurant who hadn’t produced garbage in over 2 years. It was amazing to not only see how possible it was but that they were able to do it and still run their business with success.

But how could we do that on an individual level and could it be done easily without giving up much of what we love and modern amenities? I came across Lauren Singer’s story and was very inspired by what she had to share. She has gone 2 years without producing any garbage and her story isn’t what you’d expect.

The inspiration came from taking Environmental Studies at NYU. She was passionate about protesting against big oil and wanted to do what she could to help impact our environment in a positive way. While at first you might think she’s probably a “hippie” or “treehugger” who doesn’t live a normal life, when you pay attention to her story you not only find that this isn’t the case, but also that given her experience, we could all be doing this too. All it would take is a little discipline and habit changing.

Her passion for the environment was challenged greatly one day when she realized upon opening her fridge that almost every item was wrapped or stored in some sort of disposable package. Here she was, the “green” girl, being, as she called herself, a hypocrite because she was choosing to live her life in a way that wasn’t green or sustainable. So she decided to eliminate plastic from her life.

Below she shares how she went from being an average consumer to eliminating trash from her life. Use this as inspiration and see if you can begin doing the same. She outlines many details of what she did. See if you can implement this in your own life, I myself am going to start putting a plan together to make less of an impact as well.

Her Journey To Zero Waste
“How did I go from zero plastic to zero waste?

First, I stopped buying packaged products and began bringing my own bags and jars to fill with bulk products at the supermarket. I stopped buying new clothing, and shopped only secondhand. I continued making all of my own personal care and cleaning products. I downsized significantly by selling, donating, or giving away superfluous things in my life, such as all but one of my six identical spatulas, 10 pairs of jeans that I hadn’t worn since high school, and a trillion decorative items that had no significance to me at all.

Most importantly, I started planning potentially wasteful situations; I began saying “NO” to things like straws in my cocktails at a bars, to plastic or paper bags at stores, and to receipts.

Of course, this transition didn’t happen overnight.

This process took more than a year and required a lot of effort. The most difficult part was taking a hard look at myself, the environmental studies major, the shining beacon of sustainability, and realizing that I didn’t live in a way that aligned with my values.

I realized that while I sincerely cared about a lot of things, I wasn’t embodying my philosophies. Once I accepted that, I allowed myself to change and since then my life has been better every day. Here are just a few of the ways life has improved since I went trash free:

1. I save money.

I now make a grocery list when I go shopping, which means being prepared and not grabbing expensive items impulsively. Additionally, buying food in bulk means not paying a premium for packaging. When it comes to my wardrobe, I don’t purchase new clothing; I shop secondhand and get my clothes at a heavily discounted price.

2. I eat better.

Since I purchase unpackaged foods, my unhealthy choices are really limited. Instead, I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains and legumes, as well as a lot of seasonal, local food, since farmers markets offer amazing unpackaged produce.

3. I’m happier.

Before I adopted my zero-waste lifestyle, I would find myself scrambling to the supermarket before it closed, because I didn’t shop properly, ordering in takeout because I didn’t have food, always going to the pharmacy to get this scrub and that cream, and cleaning constantly because I had so much stuff.

Now, my typical week involves one trip to the store to buy all of the ingredients I need. This trip isn’t just for food, but also for cleaning and beauty products, since all of the things I use now can be made with simple, everyday ingredients. Not only is it easier and stress free, it’s healthier (no toxic chemicals!).

I never anticipated that actively choosing not to produce waste would turn into my having a higher quality of life. I thought it would just mean not taking out the trash. But what was at first a lifestyle decision became a blog, Trash is for Tossers, which became a catalyst for chatting with interesting, like-minded people, and making friends.

Now it’s blossomed into my quitting my great post-grad job as Sustainability Manager for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection to start my own zero-waste company, The Simply Co., where I hand-make and sell the products that I learned to produce over the past two years.

I didn’t start living this lifestyle to make a statement — I began living this way because living a zero-waste life is, to me, the absolutely best way I know how to live a life that aligns with everything I believe in.”

Pass this inspiration on to others who you think could benefit from her tips and story.

H/T: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16168/i-havent-made-any-trash-in-2-years-heres-what-my-life-is-like.html

http://www.trashisfortossers.com/

Source:  She Hasn’t Made Any Trash In 2 Years. This Is What Her Life Is Like

Developing countries still vulnerable in terms of food security

Developing countries still vulnerable in terms of food security
Posted Wed 16 Oct 2013, 8:14pm AEDT

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Basket of fruit and vegetables Photo: Basket of fruit and vegetables, Feb 5, 2006. (Chris Johnson: http://www.sxc.hu)

A report by an agricultural research centre has called for greater efforts to boost food and nutrition intake for poor nations.

The 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) published by the International Food Policy Research Institute says that developing countries are now more vulnerable to shocks and stresses in terms of food and nutrition.

Today is World Food Day and the latest hunger index indicates global hunger is decreasing.

The 2013 world GHI score has fallen by 34 per cent from the 1990 GHI score.

However, 870 million people remain chronically malnourished worldwide

The research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute Derek Headey told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacific poor people are more at risk of going hungry when climatic changes and conflicts happen.

“There’s good reason to think that poor people are going to be more vulnerable in the future, especially with climate change, but also (with) more volatile food prices in the next few years.”
Becoming food secure

One way to achieve food security is to carry out resilience-building efforts instead of handing out aid, according to Mr Headey.

“Traditionally, within development circles, there has always been a bifurcation between the relief sector… which is providing… short-term safety nets, preventing famines, preventing the worst kind of health disasters,” he said.

Mr Headey says developing countries have done well in preventing famine in the last 20 or 30 years.

“The relief sector has done a good job, but we don’t want to be in the business of providing relief for the next 30 years,” he said.

“We really need development investments to try and build resilience over the longer term.”
Population pressure

Countries like Bangladesh prove family planning helps stem the hunger crisis.

“They’ve reduced their fertility rate from something like seven children in the 1970s, closer to three children today, through very effective family planning programs and also investing in education for girls,” Mr Headey said.

“The country was running out of land in the 70s, 80s, even into the 90s, so they really had to do something about family planning.

“It showed that when you commit to that, you can make a big effort.”