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Even before China’s ban, only 9 percent of discarded plastics were being recycled, while 12 percent were burned.The rest were buried in landfills or simply dumped and left to wash into rivers and oceans.S., small town and rural recycling operations have been hit the hardest.
In England, more than half-a-million more tons of plastics and other household garbage were burned last year.
Australia’s recycling industry is facing a crisis as the country struggles to handle the 1.3 million-ton stockpile of recyclable waste it had previously shipped to China.
However, the places trying to take up some of the slack in 2018 tended to be lower-income countries, primarily in Southeast Asia, many of which lack the infrastructure to properly handle recyclables.
Many of those countries were quickly overwhelmed by the volume and have also now cut back on imports. There, they were turned into forms to be repurposed by plastic manufacturers.
Recycled aluminum and glass are less affected by the ban.
Globally more plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators, or likely littering the environment as rising costs to haul away recyclable materials increasingly render the practice unprofitable.
Others, like Phenix City, Alabama, have stopped accepting all plastics.
Places like Deltona, Florida suspended curbside pickup.
China’s “National Sword” policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century.
The move was an effort to halt a deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that was overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and leaving the country with yet another environmental problem — and this one not of its own making.