Quantcast
Popular
Wikimedia Commons

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

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.
Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Denver will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Robert Kash / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Denver to Go 100 Percent Renewable by 2030

Denver became the 73rd city in the U.S. to commit to 100 percent renewable energy when Mayor Michael Hancock announced the goal in his State of the City speech Monday, The Denver Post reported.

The commitment is part of the city's larger 80×50 Climate Action Plan unveiled by Hancock Tuesday, which seeks to reduce Denver's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The Power Shift 2011 rally targeted primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for using its money and influence to stop climate and clean energy legislation. Linh Do, CC BY 2.0

Fossil Fuel Industry Outspent Environmentalists and Renewables by 10:1 on Climate Lobbying, New Study Finds

By Itai Vardi

Industry sectors based on fossil fuels significantly outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies on climate change lobbying, new research has found.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than $2 billion trying to influence climate legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pexels

Is Your Popcorn Laced With Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals?

By Kathryn Alcantar and Jose Bravo / Independent Media Institute

No one should be exposed to toxic chemicals in their food, particularly children. But that's exactly what the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found in tests of microwave popcorn bags sold in Dollar Stores. These stores are frequented by communities of color and millions of poor Americans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Climate Change May Stimulate the Chesapeake’s Blue Crab Population

By Amy Mcdermott

Jason McElwain isn't afraid of a pinch. He reached calmly into a basket of live crabs one Friday this June, and kept his cool even when a claw clamped down hard on his finger. "You get used to it after a while," he said, then yanked the crab off and tossed it into a plastic bin.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pexels

A Brief History of the Feral Blackberry

By Sara Bir

Blackberries are perhaps the best known of all foraged wild fruits. Whether they grow modestly on the perimeters of a ramshackle farm or thrive ruthlessly along the banks of a forgotten creek, there are hundreds of hidden wild blackberry havens waiting for opportunistic berry fanatics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!