The following chapters are excerpts from GAIA's longer form report, which you can find here. (PDF 5 MB)

When China took action to protect its borders from foreign plastic pollution by effectively shutting its doors to plastic waste imports in the beginning of 2018, it threw the global plastic recycling industry into chaos.

Plastic discarded by paper recycling factories piles up in Bangun, East Java, Indonesia. Ecoton, a GAIA partner organization in East Java, estimates that as much as 60–70 percent of the paper imported for recycling is contaminated with plastic waste. Photo courtesy of Fully Handoko/Ecoton.
Plastic discarded by paper recycling factories piles up in Bangun, East Java, Indonesia. Ecoton, a GAIA partner organization in East Java, estimates that as much as 60–70 percent of the paper imported for recycling is contaminated with plastic waste. Photo courtesy of Fully Handoko/Ecoton.

Wealthy countries had grown accustomed to exporting their plastic problems, with little thought or effort to ensure that the plastic they were exporting got recycled and did not harm other countries. North Americans and Europeans exported not just their plastic waste, but the pollution that went with getting rid of it.

Last year China enacted a new policy, called National Sword, for economic and environmental reasons including pollution from importing and processing plastic waste. By refusing to be the world’s dumping ground, China’s policy—and the fallout that resulted from it—revealed the true cost of rampant consumption, plastic production, and the problems and limitations of recycling as a solution to a world suffocating in its own plastic. Learn More

GLOBAL TRADE DATA

Data from the global plastics waste trade 2016-2018 and the offshore impact of China’s foreign waste import ban.

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Where Recycled Plastic Ends Up

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Stop FAKE plastic recycling now!

In early May, governments around the world will meet in Switzerland for a vote on international rules to help force wealthy states and corporations to stop treating developing countries like dumps for their plastic rubbish.