The World’s Recycling Is in #Chaos. Here’s What Has to Happen | WIRED
Even before China’s ban, only 9 percent of discarded plastic was being recycled, while 12 percent was burned. The rest was buried in landfills or simply dumped and left to wash into rivers and oceans. Without China to process plastic bottles, packaging, and food containers—not to mention industrial and other plastic waste—the already massive waste problem posed by our throwaway culture will be exacerbated, experts say. The planet’s load of nearly indestructible plastics—more than 8 billion tons have been produced worldwide over the past six decades—continues to grow.
Over the coming decade, as many as 111 million tons of plastics will have to find a new place to be processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China’s ban, according to Brooks and University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck. 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