It’s no surprise that China—the most populated country on earth—is the world’s biggest polluter. But in recent years, China’s pollution problem has reached critical mass, and the government is finally getting serious about making dramatic changes, especially as it pertains to plastic.
As we know, plastic pollution is a convoluted issue, and the decisions China has been making as of late are having ripple effects worldwide. Take their ban on importing plastic for recycling. When that ban was implemented in 2018, suddenly the rest of the world was left wondering what to do with their own plastic. Since 1992, 45% of the world’s plastic has been shipped to China. Now, without China to take it, a new study suggests that by 2030
111 million tons will have nowhere to go. The hope, at this point, is that China’s ban will instead force the world to reduce its plastic production, rather than try to figure out where to ship it. Especially when you consider that (literal) tons of the plastic sent to China for “recycling” ended up in the ocean anyway.
Now, on the heels of that import ban, China just announced plans to dramatically cut the amount of disposable plastic used within the country, as well.
According to an article in the New York Times, the new guidelines include “bans on the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in major cities by the end of this year. Other sources of plastic garbage will be banned in Beijing, Shanghai and wealthy coastal provinces by the end of 2022, and that rule will extend nationwide by late 2025.”
Plastic bags are one of China’s biggest forms of pollution. Twenty five billion are used for deliveries in the country every year, and each is used for an average of 12 minutes. In a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people, that’s a crazy amount of unnecessary waste. And, as it pertains to ocean waste, China is by far the world’s worst offender: 3.5 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean via China each year (doubling the amount from Indonesia, the world’s second-worst plastic polluter).
Sure, there’s still a long road to go. But it’s a step down the right path. If these policy changes are successfully implemented, they have a real chance to actually make a positive impact on the future of our oceans.
Now, let’s just hope the rest of the world is paying attention.
This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.
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