16 Jun 2018

China's recycling ban: where will your rubbish go?

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 16 June 2018
Bales of recycling

Photo: (Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash)

China has, until recently, been the world's recycling bin.

In the '80s and '90s, it was recycling that helped to fuel China's manufacturing boom as local producers struggled to find the raw materials they needed to make stuff.

But China announced earlier this year that it would start restricting waste imports, so some plastics that were once being recycled are now being dumped in landfills.

Adam Minter is a man obsessed with rubbish, junkyards and the huge economies that underpin the recycling industry.

The Bloomberg journalist has written a book called Junkyard Planet and is currently researching another one all about the global market for second-hand goods.

"At its peak, imported recycled material was the feed stock for more than half of China's paper production, while imported scrap may have accounted for a third of its copper production. The recycling industry employed 1.5 million people, and indirectly supported another 10 million jobs. By 2011, recycling businesses devoted to non-ferrous metals were churning out products worth more than $64 billion a year" - Adam Minter