Chinese customs officials have refused entry to 469 tons of solid waste from the US, the import of which has recently been banned, and sent the garbage back to America, Xinhua news agency reported.
Inspectors in Hangzhou, the capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province, found the shipment consisting of scrap paper mixed with waste metal parts and used drinking bottles, according to the agency. Shipments with solid waste are prohibited by Beijing.
The customs authorities demanded the garbage be returned to America as soon as possible.
In late 2017, China banned imports of 24 types of solid waste into the country as part of the fight against environmental pollution. Previously, China was a global importer of garbage, including from the United States, which was one of the largest suppliers.
China has long been the world’s recycling bin, processing no less than 50 percent of global exports of waste plastic, paper and metals in 2016. That year, the US paid China $5.2 billion to recycle 16 million tons of waste.
“Large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials,” Beijing said, explaining its decision to the World Trade Organization. “This polluted China’s environment seriously.”
When the Chinese economy was smaller, it was less expensive for the country with its cheap labor to recycle than to make those materials from scratch. However, as the economy grows, processing garbage has become less and less profitable in addition to pollution.
There have been reports that following the ban on waste imports, developed countries, and the US in particular, have had problems with getting rid of garbage. Steve Frank of Pioneer Recycling in Portland, Oregon, told NPR “the rest of the world cannot make up that gap.”