China’s plastic recycling aids climate change efforts

A worker uses machines to compress plastic foam and cartons at the Pujin Recyclables Transfer Center in Shanghai, east China. [File photo by Xing Yi/chinadaily.com.cn]

China’s efforts to recycle plastic waste over the past decade have made a significant contribution to mitigating global climate change, reducing crude oil consumption and carbon emissions by millions of metric tons, according to a report.

“After decades of effort, China has made notable progress in the governance of plastic pollution,” reads the report, which was jointly unveiled Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research and the Chinese Academy of social sciences.

With preferential investment, financing and taxation policies, China has established a market-based plastic recycling system with wide coverage, which accounts for more than 45% of the world’s total recycled plastic waste. .

Between 2011 and 2020, China recycled 170 million tons of plastic waste.

Plastic production is energy-intensive and consumes fossil fuels. When incinerated, plastic waste releases heat-trapping gases and other pollutants.

Once these emissions reach a certain level, environmental risks result. All of this makes plastic waste recycling important.

China’s plastic recycling efforts over the decade reduced crude oil consumption by 510 million tons and avoided 61.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the report noted. It also prevented the generation of 900 million tons of solid waste.

It now has the largest plastic recycling capacity in the world. Its huge plastic recycling industry, which employs around 900,000 workers, recycled 31% of plastic waste generated nationwide in 2021, according to the report, around 1.7 times the global average rate.

China has also made significant contributions to recycling plastic waste from other parts of the world.

Between 1992 and 2018, China recycled 106 million tons of imported plastic waste, much of it coming from the European Union and the United States. This saved 318 million tons of crude oil.


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