Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

World's Plastic Nightmare May Never End as China's Demand Set to Soar

Popular
World's Plastic Nightmare May Never End as China's Demand Set to Soar
Wikimedia Commons

First, the good news. On Wednesday, more than 200 countries signed a United Nations resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in our oceans.

Now the bad news. China will stop accepting imports of plastic trash from other countries as of Jan. 1. That might sound like a good move for the world's top ocean plastic polluter. But in an awful twist, China's ban on foreign plastic trash could actually leave a massive hole in its domestic scrap recycling program. This means the Chinese are now demanding more new plastic to replace salvaged material, Bloomberg reported.


Cue the global plastics industry tenting their fingers and muttering "Excellent," Mr. Burns style.

According to Bloomberg, U.S. chemical makers such as DowDuPont Inc. "are rushing to find markets for millions of tons of new production amid an industry investment binge. U.S. exports of one common plastic are expected to quintuple by 2020.

“It's a good time to be bringing on some new assets," Mark Lashier, chief executive officer of Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., said interview during the launch of two polyethylene plants in Old Ocean, Texas last month. “If you pull recycled plastic out, that market demand is going to increase."

China is the world's top importer of plastic leftovers. The country took in 51 percent of the world's plastic trash last year, including about 70 percent of U.S. plastic scrap.

Reuters also reported that producers around the world are gearing up for China's ever-soaring plastic demand:

To make up for the loss of recycled plastic, petrochemical producers and exporters to China from the Middle East, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore are expected to receive more orders for products including polyethylene, a thermoplastic found in almost everything from grocery bags to bubble wraps, pipes, medical devices and even bulletproof vests.

“From next year, demand for polyethylene would get even better as the impact of the ban would be felt," said a source from a Chinese firm that produces and markets petroleum and petrochemical products.

Each year, 8 million metric tons of petroleum-based plastics get dumped into our seas, literally choking marine life and wrecking havoc to ocean ecosystems and the larger food chain. Towns, cities and even entire countries have implemented laws against certain plastic items such as grocery bags and drinking straws.

Incidentally, while China did join the United Nations' recent call to stop ocean plastic litter, the resolution stopped short of setting any specific targets or timelines. China, as well as the U.S. and India, reportedly refused to include in the resolution any specific reduction goals, according to the Independent.

Meanwhile, a new report released by the Center for International Environmental Law highlights how the plastics industry had long known about the problem of ocean plastics.

The report, Plastic Industry Awareness of the Ocean Plastics Problem, suggests that the chemical and petroleum industries were aware of, or should have been aware of, the problems caused by their products by no later than the 1970s.

"Unfortunately, the answer to both when the plastic industry knew their products would contribute to massive public harms and what they did with that information suggests they followed Big Oil's playbook on climate change: deny, confuse, and fight regulation and effective solutions," said Steven Feit, CIEL Attorney and lead author.

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Scientists became aware of the ocean plastics problem in the 1950s, and understanding of the nature and severity of the problem grew over the next decades.
  • The major chemical and petroleum companies and industry groups were aware of the ocean plastics problem no later than the 1970s.
  • Plastics producers have often taken the position that they are only responsible for plastic waste in the form of resin pellets, and that other forms of plastic waste are out of their control.

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

piyaset / iStock / Getty Images Plus

In an alarming new study, scientists found that climate change is already harming children's diets.

Read More Show Less