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How China’s ban on plastic waste imports became an ‘earthquake’ that threw recycling efforts into turmoil

  • When recycling businesses gravitated to Malaysia, a black economy went with them
  • Some countries treat China’s ban as an opportunity and have been quick to adapt
For years, China was the world's leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
For years, China was the world’s leading destination for recyclable rubbish, but a ban on some imports has left nations scrambling to find dumping grounds for growing piles of waste. Photo: AFP
From grubby packaging that engulfs small Southeast Asian communities to waste that piles up in plants from the US to Australia, China’s ban on accepting the world’s used plastic has thrown recycling efforts into turmoil.
For many years, China took the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, processing much of it into a higher quality material that could be used by manufacturers.
But, at the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste, as well as many other recyclables, in an effort to protect its environment and air quality, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.
“It was like an earthquake,” Arnaud Brunet, director general of Brussels-based industry group The Bureau of International Recycling, said.
“China was the biggest market for recyclables. It created a major shock in the global market.”
Instead, plastic was redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asia, where Chinese recyclers have shifted.

With a large Chinese-speaking minority, Malaysia was a top choice for Chinese recyclers looking to relocate, and official data showed plastic imports tripled from 2016 levels to 870,000 tonnes last year.

China to collect applications for scrap metal import licences from next month, trade group says
In the small town of Jenjarom, close to Kuala Lumpur, plastic processing plants appeared in large numbers, pumping out noxious fumes around the clock.

Huge mounds of plastic waste, dumped in the open, piled up as recyclers struggled to cope with the influx of packaging from everyday goods, such as foods and laundry detergents, from as far afield as Germany, the US, and Brazil.

Residents soon noticed the acrid stench over the town – the kind of odour that is usual in processing plastic, but environmental campaigners believed some of the fumes also came from the incineration of plastic waste that was too low quality to recycle.

“People were attacked by toxic fumes, waking them up at night. Many were coughing a lot,” resident Pua Lay Peng said.

“I could not sleep, I could not rest, I always felt fatigued,” the 47-year-old added.

Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP
Representatives of an environmentalist NGO inspect an abandoned plastic waste factory in Jenjarom, outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Photo: AFP

Pua and other community members began investigating and, by mid-2018, had located about 40 processing plants, many of which appeared to be operating without proper permits.

Initial complaints to authorities went nowhere but they kept up pressure, and eventually the government took action. Authorities started closing down illegal factories in Jenjarom, and announced a nationwide temporary freeze on plastic import permits.

Thirty-three factories were closed down, although activists believed many had quietly moved elsewhere in the country. Residents said air quality had improved but some plastic dumps remained.

Chinese recycling expert breeds thousands of flies to turn kitchen waste into cash

In Australia, Europe and the US, many of those collecting plastic and other recyclables were left scrambling to find new places to send it.

They faced higher costs to have it processed by recyclers at home and in some cases resorted to sending it to landfill sites as the scrap piled up so quickly.

“Twelve months on, we are still feeling the effects but we have not moved to the solutions yet,” said Garth Lamb, president of industry body Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia.

Some have been quicker to adapt to the new environment, such as some local authority-run centres that collect recyclables in Adelaide, South Australia.

The centres used to send nearly everything – ranging from plastic to paper and glass – to China but now 80 per cent is processed by local companies, with most of the rest shipped to India.

Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority's recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP
Rubbish is sifted and sorted at Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority’s recycling site at Edinburgh, a northern suburb of the city of Adelaide. Photo: AFP

“We moved quickly and looked to domestic markets,” Adam Faulkner, chief executive of the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority, said.

“We’ve found that by supporting local manufacturers, we’ve been able to get back to pre-China ban prices.”

In mainland China, imports of plastic waste dropped from 600,000 tonnes per month in 2016 to about 30,000 a month in 2018, according to data cited in a recent report from Greenpeace and environmental NGO Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

Once bustling centres of recycling were abandoned as firms shifted to Southeast Asia.

How China’s plastic waste ban has left Japan to deal with mountains of trash
On a visit to the southern town of Xingtan last year, Chen Liwen, founder of environmental NGO China Zero Waste Alliance, found the recycling industry had disappeared.
“The plastic recyclers were gone – there were ‘for rent’ signs plastered on factory doors and even recruitment signs calling for experienced recyclers to move to Vietnam,” she said.
Southeast Asian nations affected early by the China ban – as well as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam were hit hard – have taken steps to limit plastic imports, but the waste has simply been redirected to other countries without restrictions, such as Indonesia and Turkey, the Greenpeace report said.
With only an estimated nine per cent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners said the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis was for companies to make less and consumers to use less.
Greenpeace campaigner Kate Lin said: “The only solution to plastic pollution is producing less plastic.”
Source: SCMP

China lodges representations with U.S. over end to Iran sanction waivers

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday it has lodged representations with the United States over its decision to end waivers on sanctions on Iranian oil imports.

China is Iran’s largest crude oil customer, with total imports last year of 29.27 million tonnes, or about 585,400 barrels a day, roughly 6 percent of China’s total oil imports, according to customs data.

“The decision from the U.S. will contribute to volatility in the Middle East and in the international energy market,” Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, told a news briefing.

Washington has announced that all Iran sanction waivers will end by May, causing crude oil prices to rise and pressuring importers to cut their Iranian imports to zero.

China was one of eight global buyers that won exemptions to import crude oil last November.

Some of China’s key refineries are configured to process the Iranian crude and refinery officials say Iranian oil typically yields better margins compared similar grades from rival suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.

State-owned Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum Corp both produce oil in Iran, having spent billions of dollars on oil fields such as Yadavaran and North Azadegan. They have been sending the oil from the fields to China.

Source: Reuters


China to hold shadow play art week

BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) — Representative shadow play works from around China will be displayed from April 28 to 30 during the art week in Huazhou District of Weinan City, northwest Shaanxi Province, which is dubbed the “home of shadow play.”

Co-organized by the Prince Kung’s Palace Museum in Beijing and provincial and municipal authorities in Shaanxi, the event will also include academic forums and performances of intangible cultural heritage music, dances, and Chinese operas.

Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, dates back to the Han Dynasty around 2,000 years ago. Performers hold cowhide-carved figures between a source of light and a translucent curtain, make movements of the figures for storytelling, and add drum sounds and Chinese opera to accompany the movements.

Chen Xiaowen, the deputy curator of the museum, said at a press conference in Beijing that they will try to organize more state-level shadow play events in Weinan and establish a special committee for the art form in the city.

Source: Xinhua


Chinese president, premier send condolence messages to Sri Lanka over deadly attacks

BEIJING, April 21 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday sent condolence messages to their Sri Lankan counterparts, respectively, after multiple deadly attacks shook the country.

In his message to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Xi said that he was shocked to know the series of explosions in Sri Lanka, which have caused large casualties.

“I, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as myself, send my deep condolences to the victims, and my sincere sympathy to the injured and families of the victims,” he added.

The Chinese government and people will firmly stand by the people of Sri Lanka and firmly support the Sri Lankan government’s effort to maintain national security and stability, Xi said.

On the same day, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also sent condolences to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the attacks.

Source: Xinhua


China lifts 3 ethnic minorities out of poverty

KUNMING, April 21 (Xinhua) — China has lifted three ethnic minority groups out of poverty in the southwestern province of Yunnan as it steps toward delivering the goal of completely eliminating poverty by 2020.

The ethnic minority groups of Dulong, Deang and Jino had a total population of more than 50,000, according to the last national population census in 2010.

The proportion of residents living in poverty has been reduced from 24.25 percent a few years ago to 2.42 percent, well below the required 3 percent that removes them from the poverty list in western China.

The ethnic minority groups of Dulong, Deang and Jino live in the mountainous regions in the northwestern, western and southern parts of Yunnan, respectively.

Huang Yunbo, head of the provincial office of poverty alleviation and development, said a total of seven ethnic minority groups will be removed from the poverty list this year.

The number of such ethnic groups who are lifted out of poverty will reach 11 by 2020, Huang said.

The battle against poverty is one of the “three tough battles” that the country must win to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020. To achieve the goal, China needs to lift around 30 million poor rural residents out of poverty between 2018 and 2020.

Source: Xinhua


Five Chinese still missing after Sri Lanka bombings as tourists return home

  • Embassy officials have contacted families of two Chinese nationals who were killed in the blasts on Easter Sunday, and visited five who were injured
  • Four of the missing were travelling to the Indian Ocean on a study trip
Police and investigators work at the Shangri-La Hotel blast scene in Colombo on Sunday, where the two Chinese were killed. Photo: Xinhua
Police and investigators work at the Shangri-La Hotel blast scene in Colombo on Sunday, where the two Chinese were killed. Photo: Xinhua
Five Chinese nationals remain missing following a series of suicide bombings in hotels and churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that claimed the lives of 
two other Chinese

and injured five more.

At least 290 people were killed and more than 500 others injured in the blasts, according to a Sri Lankan government official on Monday, who said a local militant group was behind the attacks.
The Chinese embassy in Colombo had contacted the families of the two deceased Chinese and was awaiting police confirmation on the fate of the five still missing, state-run People’s Daily reported.
Two Chinese nationals sustained serious injuries in the blasts and three others minor ones. Embassy officials had visited them several times in hospital, the report said.
“The embassy will closely monitor the situation, urge Sri Lankan police to confirm the whereabouts of the missing persons and assist Chinese citizens and families to properly handle the aftermath,” the embassy was quoted as saying.
The two Chinese who died, cousins surnamed Tan, were caught in a blast at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, Red Star News quoted a Chinese businesswoman in the Sri Lankan capital as saying.
“Their families identified them at the scene,” she said.
Four of the missing Chinese are students from the First Institute of Oceanography at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Photo: FIO
Four of the missing Chinese are students from the First Institute of Oceanography at the Ministry of Natural Resources. Photo: FIO

Four of the missing Chinese – Li Dawei, Li Jian, Pan Wenliang and Wang Liwei – are students from the Ministry of Natural Resources’ First Institute of Oceanography who were going to take part in a study in the Indian Ocean, an institute staff member told Red Star News.

The institute has sent staff to 

Sri Lanka

to handle the emergency.

Four of the five injured are students from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, who were en route to a study trip in the eastern Indian Ocean.

“It is an annual scientific expedition programme and they were on the way to replace the 10 others who had completed their rotation,” a staff member told The Beijing News. “Some sustained bruising on their legs and one could hardly hear after the blast.”

Tourists who returned to Shanghai and Chengdu, Sichuan province, told the newspaper that their trip had to be cut short as shops were closed and a curfew imposed amid tight security.

“All the private cars, coaches, vans and buses had to open their doors for inspection. There were checkpoints every 10 metres,” said one tour guide from Chengdu.

A traveller from the same city said airport security had also been stepped up. “There was a bombing 20 minutes after we left a restaurant and another one outside the airport when we were waiting there. We had to pass through three or four very strict security checks at the airport,” she said.

Back in Shanghai, another woman said: “We were not scared there but we are very glad to be back home.”

Source: SCMP


Tesla says investigating car explosion in Shanghai

Logo of a Tesla Motors store in Hangzhou downtown. Tesla Motors is an American automotive and energy storage company selling luxury electric cars and battery products. It aims to produce its $76,000 and up vehicles in ChinaImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

Tesla said it is investigating a video on Chinese social media that appears to show one of its vehicles bursting into flames in Shanghai.

In a statement, the carmaker said it had sent a team to investigate the matter, and that there were no reported casualties.

The video, which has not been verified by the BBC, showed a stationary car erupting into flames in a parking lot.

Tesla did not confirm the car model but social media identified it as Model S.

“After learning about the incident in Shanghai, we immediately sent the team to the scene last night,” according to a translation of a Tesla statement posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“We are actively contacting relevant departments and supporting the verification. According to current information, there are no casualties.”

The video showed smoke rising from a parked, white vehicle and seconds later it bursts into flames.

The time stamp on the video shows the incident happened on Sunday night, local time (Sunday morning GMT).

Previous incidents involving Tesla vehicles catching on fire seem to have happened while the cars were moving.

In 2018, a Tesla car driven by British TV director Michael Morris burst into flames, following another such incident involving a Model S model in France in 2016.

A series of fires involving Tesla Model S cars took place in 2013.

Source: The BBC


Huawei says launches ‘world’s first’ 5G communications hardware for autos

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies launched on Monday what it said was the world’s first 5G communications hardware for the automotive industry, in a sign of its growing ambitions to become a key supplier to the sector for self-driving technology.
Huawei said in a statement that the so-called MH5000 module is based on the Balong 5000 5G chip which it launched in January. “Based on this chip, Huawei has developed the world’s first 5G car module with high speed and high quality,” it said.
It launched the module at the Shanghai Autoshow, which began last week and runs until Thursday.
“As an important communication product for future intelligent car transportation, this 5G car module will promote the automotive industry to move towards the 5G era,” Huawei said.
It said the module will aid its plans to start commercializing 5G network technology for the automotive sector in the second half of this year.
Huawei has in recent years been testing technology for intelligent connected cars in Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuxi and has signed cooperation deals with a swathe of car makers including FAW, Dongfeng and Changan.
The company, which is also the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker, is striving to lead the global race for next-generation 5G networks but has come under increasing scrutiny from Washington which alleges that its equipment could be used for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Source: Reuters

BRI to address global infrastructure imbalance: AECOM

BEIJING, April 20 (Xinhua) — The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be an efficient way to address the imbalance in global infrastructure development, according to U.S. engineering firm AECOM.

Under the BRI, financing platforms including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Silk Road Fund have emerged, which will help narrow the development gap, said Ian Chung, chief executive of AECOM for Greater China.

“The BRI is an opportunity for all. It is open, inclusive, and will bring economic development to the next level,” Chung told Xinhua.

According to Chung, countries and regions of different development phases can all benefit from the BRI, especially in infrastructure.

For developing economies, such as some in Africa, the BRI will significantly improve local infrastructure connectivity and boost economic growth, Chung said.

For fast-growing economies such as some in Southeast Asia, Chinese firms could share their experience in high efficiency and green construction via the BRI to meet the rising demand for sustainable infrastructure, he said.

As for many other developed countries, the demand for infrastructure still abounds, as many existing facilities are becoming aged, he added.

The BRI has opened plenty of opportunities for AECOM, as the company has been partnering with Chinese firms on many overseas projects, offering consulting services on design, local regulations, environmental and safety standards.

“Chinese firms excel in construction and financing, while we share a competitive edge in project design, knowledge of local regulations, procedures as well as culture. It’s a win-win for all of us,” Chung said.

Seeing business opportunities from the BRI, the company set up a new department in its Beijing office three years ago to work with Chinese firms on BRI projects.

The firm just opened its new offices in Chengdu and Changsha, following the set-up of its China headquarters in Shanghai last year, another sign that shows the company’s confidence in China’s development, Chung said.

“I am very optimistic that we will have more value-added cooperation with Chinese firms under the BRI,” Chung said.

Source: Xinhua


Spotlight: Chinese, American scholars call for cooperation on ecological civilization at Int’l forum in California

CLAREMONT, the United States, April 20 (Xinhua) — Chinese and American scholars called on the two countries and the rest of the world to strengthen cooperation on ecological civilization at an international forum, which kicked off here on Friday in western U.S. state of California.

Themed “Ecological Civilization and Holistic Human Development,” the forum is hosted by the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, a U.S. think tank and non-profit organization.

Over 160 scholars from China, the United States and other countries are exchanging views on the latest developments in ecological civilization at the Pitzer College in the two-day event.

“Let’s work together to create an ecological civilization,” said John B. Cobb Jr., a 94-year-old member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in his welcome remark at the opening ceremony.

“I have said many times that my hope for the future of process thinking is in China,” said Cobb, noting that China is now far in the lead in the development of ecological civilization. Cobb has been advocating for green development and more efforts to avoid global ecological crisis since 1970s.

“More and more, we want to learn from you and to share our ideas with you,” he told Chinese scholars in his speech.

He noted that China has adopted the goal of ecological civilization and changed policies accordingly.

Cobb is the author of more than 50 books and the founding president of the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, donating all of his money to support its operation and activities.

He said that China’s commitment to become an ecological civilization has inspired some cities in other countries and expressed hope for more cooperation between China and the United States in future.

“I hope that, as citizens and local communities, we can continue to build ties of friendship and mutual support,” Cobb concluded.

Philip Clayton, president of the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, urged China and western countries to jointly deal with climate change.

“China became the global leader in the development of ecological civilization in 2007. China has begun to bring attention to ecological civilization in the United States, and many western countries inspired by that movement,” Clayton told Xinhua.

The Chinese government announced its first national action plan to respond to climate change in 2007, becoming the first developing country to formulate and implement the National Climate Change Program. Respect nature, follow its way and protect it. The Chinese leadership has been tirelessly promoting a simple, moderate, green, and low-carbon life for Chinese people, and asked them to treat the ecological environment with the same importance they treat their own lives.

“We have begun an annual series of international forums on ecological civilization that helps the west learn about Chinese ideas of ecological civilization. We are at a phase of new partnership opening up between China and western nations like the United States,” said Clayton, adding that as the environmental crisis grows greater, the room for cooperation is much more expanded.

“This is a really important time in the history of our planet. We have an increasingly short amount of time in order to be able to take real, concerted effort to address the climate crisis, and our countries have an opportunity to collaborate and cooperate to reduce the impact of industry and agriculture in order to form the ecological civilization,” said Brian G. Henning, Professor of Department of Environmental Studies at the Gonzaga University.

“It’s clear to us now that no country will be unaffected by the changes to our climate. I live in Washington State and the wild fires each year are getting worse and worse. And this is causing people all over our country to realize that we need to take climate change seriously and to reduce the carbon pollution in our environment,” he added.

Some Chinese scholars introduced the latest development of China’s ecological civilization construction, emphasizing the importance and necessity of cooperation in the field.

In her plenary speech, Dr. Fan Meijun, program director of Institute for Postmodern Development of China, argued that new education model is urgently needed to cultivate persons who serve the local community, serve the ecological civilization.

Fan stressed that ecological civilization is a huge project which needs countries to work more in-depth cooperation.

“In this sense, the cooperation between China, the second largest economy, and the United States, the largest one, is extremely important,” she noted.

Source: Xinhua

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