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Japan, the United States and Europe waste plastics are rejected by China

In July 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the “Implementation Plan for the Reform of the Import Management System for the Prohibition of Foreign Waste Entry into the Solid Waste”, requiring a total ban on the entry of foreign garbage.

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Since the implementation of the program, since January 1, 2018, China has banned the import of four types of 24 solid wastes, including waste plastics, paper and textiles. By the end of 2019, the import of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources will be phased out.

"Japan Economic News" said that after China banned the import of waste plastics in 2017, the export volume of Japan, the United States and Europe was halved, and the international recycling network of waste plastics was paralyzed.

Japanese media said that plastic waste in developed countries is nowhere to go. The reason is that China, which receives large amounts of plastic waste as a renewable resource, prohibits imports in order to prevent environmental pollution. In addition, Southeast Asia, which succeeds China, has also stepped up restrictions. According to a recent statistics, from July to December 2018, the total amount of waste plastics exported by Japan, the United States and Europe was 1.7 million tons, which was halved in one and a half years. Due to insufficient processing capacity, most of the waste plastics stranded in Japan, the United States and Europe cannot be burned in time or reused. Processing costs are also increasing. Currently, countries need to rebuild garbage recycling networks.

Among them, Japan produces 9 million tons of waste plastic per year, with an export volume of 1.5 million to 1.6 million tons. However, after China banned imports, Japan’s exports fell to 1 million tons. During the year, 500,000 tons that could not be exported could only be left in Japan.

Kazuo Kazuhiro, president of Recycle Power, a large incineration facility in Tokyo, said that “the application for garbage collection has increased to about three times that of previous years”. He said that the company has no spare capacity and is restricting reception. Intermediate processing companies of waste plastics also handle garbage, and companies transport waste from Tokyo to the incineration facilities in Hokkaido and Kyushu.

The same situation is faced in Europe and the United States. The export volume of waste plastics, the Port of Los Angeles, a suburb of Los Angeles, was reduced to one-sixth compared with three years ago. Although the recycling plant in California has begun to increase production investment, the loss of recycling facilities or the closure of recycling services has been increasing due to losses. In addition, the UK, which exports 60% of its recycling volume, is also experiencing a crisis of inadequate processing capacity.

According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, at present, waste plastics stranded in Japan have become a cost burden for waste-discharging companies. The lack of soundness in Japan’s domestic recycling system is increasingly worrying.

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A director of an industrial waste treatment company with a business scope in the Tokyo area lamented, “The price has increased 2-3 times a year. This situation has never been encountered.” The company collects commission fees from enterprises and receives waste plastics. After intermediate treatment such as washing and crushing, it is transported to incineration facilities and recycling plants. What is currently difficult to solve is the commission fee paid to the incineration facility.

The director of the company said that before the ban on the import of waste plastics in China, the commission fee per kilogram of garbage is about 25 yen (about 1.5 yuan). Some of them have now risen to about 40 yen (about 2.4 yuan).

Previously, when a large amount of waste plastics was exported to China, some middlemen would come to buy them. However, this channel has become narrower and narrower, and the cost of entrusting incineration has increased. The company expects to turn into a loss in 2019.

Morita Yoshida, a visiting researcher at the Earth Environment Strategy Research Institute of the Public Welfare Foundation, said that a global general rule governing the quality and distribution channels of waste plastics should be constructed. Regardless of whether it is in Japan or abroad, the need for countries to coordinate and rebuild waste plastic recycling networks is further increasing.

According to the report, waste plastics stranded in Japan have become a cost burden for waste-discharging companies. The lack of soundness in Japan’s domestic recycling system is increasingly worrying.

According to the report, costs are almost increasing at all stages of waste plastics circulation.

According to the report, the Japanese government and Norway have jointly proposed to add contaminated waste plastics to the Basel Convention, which restricts the international transfer of hazardous waste. To this end, it is indispensable to strengthen Japan's domestic processing capacity, but now, the willingness of Japanese private equipment investment is very low.

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The report believes that after temporarily coping with it, the export location will be turned into a country with more restrictive conditions. This will not solve the problem fundamentally. Countries need to build a global general rule governing the quality and distribution of waste plastics. The need for countries to coordinate and rebuild waste plastics reuse networks has been further increased.