Success: China’s Ban on Foreign Waste Could Reduce Ocean Plastic Pollution

Target: Li Ganjie, Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, People’s Republic of China

Goal: Applaud China for refusing to process world’s garbage, opening up reforms for global waste recycling.

China has recently banned 24 types of foreign waste imports, including electronic waste, unsorted papers, and household plastic waste, which could lead to reduced ocean plastic pollution stemming from Chinese rivers. China had processed more than half of the world’s plastic wastes and much of the world’s electronic waste, leading to horrible environmental and human health problems, as well as extensive ocean plastic pollution.

In Southern China, for example, there were no regulations around recycling electronic waste–a process that included melting plastics in unventilated working areas to extract precious metals–and workers were forced to inhale toxic chemicals, and surrounding groundwater sources were polluted.

While the ban on foreign waste focused on health problems, benefits include reduced plastic pollution in China’s rivers. With less foreign waste, China might be able to focus on its own polluted rivers and waterways. Four of the top contributors to ocean plastic pollution are Chinese rivers, making China one of the top five offenders, as cited by a petition on ForceChange last year. Much of this plastic came from leftover pieces that were worthless or could not be recycled.  As a result, China’s rivers filled with foreign plastics, along with those from rural area residents who have no access to proper waste management systems.

Countries like the UK and the USA, top plastic exporters, will now be forced to implement laws and policies to address the growing piles of trash that they can no longer send to China. Perhaps now, China will be able to focus on implementing effective waste management programs in rural areas and clean up its rivers. With many businesses struggling because of the ban on foreign waste, plastic from the country will be valued and recycled more, as recyclers have less to work with.

Sign the petition below to praise the Minister of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China for taking action to reduce ocean plastic pollution.


Dear Mr. Li,

China’s ban on foreign waste is a momentous decision. Now, foreign countries will be forced to address plastic pollution and waste recycling on their own lands. They can no longer rely on China and use your lands as a dumpsite. Furthermore, this reduction in plastic will surely lead to less ocean plastic pollution. China currently holds one of the spots in the top contributors to ocean plastic pollution. However, I hope that this will change in the coming years.

I applaud you for saying no to foreign waste and choosing to focus on fixing problems at home. These include environmental and health problems, along with major waste management issues. Before, with so much plastic imported, many workers threw plastics into the rivers when they deemed it worthless or unrecyclable. Now, with less plastic to work with, perhaps they will not be as careless and continue to ensure that China’s waterways are free of plastic that find their way into oceans. Thank you for your hard work and I hope that in the future, not only will China refuse to be the world’s dumping ground, but that it will refuse to be a contributor to ocean plastic waste.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Hans Braxmeier

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  1. It’s about time that countries stop taking electronic (and other) waste from other countries just to make a few bucks while letting it stockpile, polluting the water and land around it. Countries need to invest in new and more recycling methods and places to take care of their own trash.

  2. GEN AGUSTSSON says:

    congrats to china!

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