The Disposable Plastic Epidemic

What we’ve discovered, on a global scale, is that plastic is just as much innovative as it is a nightmare. The world is simply filled with too much plastic, and production hasn’t been slowing down. Now, we’ve reached a plastic epidemic, one which is attacking our oceans and our landfills. The biggest culprit of them all: disposable/single use plastic.

China, the world’s plastic capitol

Disposable Plastic Waste

China is the world’s largest producer of plastic and is largely responsible for the spike in production of disposable plastic. In fact, Asia has thrived on plastic—new economics have cropped up because of it. According to National Geographic, “half the world’s mismanaged plastic waste was generated by just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.” The problem is now so dire that—even if we were to recycle absolutely everything, every bit of plastic across North America and Europe—that it wouldn’t make a dent in the mass volumes of plastics that are reaching ocean waters.

To understand this dramatic volume of plastic, consider these facts:

  • Since as recent as 2000, half of all existing plastic has been made.
  • Half of the plastics that exist in the world are made in Asia.
  • China can claim 29% of the world’s plastic production.

Mounds of waste

Repurposing Plastic WasteHigh production leads to high waste. Nearly 30% of what ends up in our ocean waters can be linked directly to China. While China is a major producer of plastic, it also relies heavily on plastic from other sources, such as repurposed plastic from other countries. Because of this, China has historically purchased tons of plastic from the United States and other sources.

However, this changed with the National Sword, China’s recent initiative, designed to ban recycled plastics imports. It’s a mandate that significantly restricts the types of materials that China will accept for repurposing. The goal: to reduce the importation of all recycled materials. This was a dramatic change on a global scale; in the past, China took pretty much anything. Now, they’re closing the doors to most of the World’s U.S.’s plastic, resulting in huge stockpiles building up across the U.S.

Even more recently Malaysia shut its ports to recyclables as they were flooded with the spillover from China’s National Sword efforts.  This has even further disrupted the recycling industry.

It’s hard to anticipate how this will eventually play out globally, but Recycle1 can help.

For businesses that are evaluating how they can be more socially and environmentally responsible, Recycle1 can help. We specialize in guiding businesses on best practices for recycling, reducing waste and being more thoughtful about their waste management practices across the board. Contact us to learn more.