Four tough actions that would help fight the global plastic crisis


Christine Cole ‘Four tough actions that would help fight the global plastic crisis’

Christine Cole is a Research Fellow at the CIE-MAP Centre, Nottingham Trent University. Her article ‘Four tough actions that would help fight the global plastic crisis’ was originally published on 10 January 2018 in ‘The Conversation’.

China is no longer importing the world’s recyclable plastic – so what should we do instead?

Article excerpt

The environmental impact of plastic is finally receiving the attention it deserves. This is partly down to the BBC’s Blue Planet II highlighting the problem of ocean plastics. But it’s also because the Chinese government has recently imposed quality restrictions on the import of recyclable materials, in an attempt to address domestic concerns over pollution and public health.

Beijing’s move in effect closes down the export of recyclable plastics, paper and other materials from the world’s richest countries. The UK, rest of Europe, US, Australia and others have for a long time been dependent on China to take the poor quality materials that they collect and do not have the infrastructure or capacity to use themselves. Until more recycling plants are built to deal with it domestically, the UK faces a build-up of plastic waste.

Other countries in Asia will continue to accept some of the lower quality materials, but this is a temporary fix at best. Sending plastic to India, Vietnam or Cambodia instead of China may limit the amount that has to be stored, placed in landfill or burnt in the UK, but it does nothing to reduce the overall amount of plastic.

We cannot simply rely on the actions of concerned individuals. What’s needed goes beyond reusing plastic water bottles, stopping using plastic drinking straws and taking reusable bags to the supermarket…

A full copy of the article is available to read here.

Further Reading

A copy of Christine Cole’s article ‘China bans foreign waste – but what will happen to the world’s recycling?’ is published by ‘The Conversation’ and available to read on the CIE-MAP Centre website.


A brief overview of the End Use Energy Demand Centres (EUED) is available via the following link.