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Scientists: China’s Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances

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Scientists: China's Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage
Scientists: China's Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage, Pixabay
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China’s decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries is causing plastic to pile up around the globe, and wealthy countries must find a way to slow the accumulation of one of the most ubiquitous materials on the planet, a group of scientists said.

The scientists sought to quantify the impact of the Chinese import ban on the worldwide trade in plastic waste, and found that other nations might need to find a home for more than 122 million tons (110 million metric tons) of plastic by 2030. The ban went into effect Dec. 31, 2017, and the stockpiling trend figures to worsen, the scientists said.

Wealthy countries such as the United States, Japan and Germany have long sent their plastic recyclables to China, and the country doesn’t want to be the world’s dumping ground for plastic anymore. The study found China has taken more than 116 million tons (105 million metric tons) of the material since 1992, the equivalent of the weight of more than 300 Empire State Buildings.

The change is forcing countries to rethink how they deal with plastic waste. They need to be more selective about what they choose to recycle, and more fastidious about reusing plastics, said Amy Brooks, first author on the study and a doctoral student in engineering at the University of Georgia. In the meantime, Brooks said, more plastic waste is likely to get incinerated or sent to landfills.

“This is a wake-up call. Historically, we’ve been depending on China to take in this recycled waste and now they are saying no,” she said. “That waste has to be managed, and we have to manage it properly.”

plastic cups
plastic cups, Pixabay

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Using United Nations data, it found that China has dwarfed all other plastics importers, accounting for about 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste since 1992. The ban is part of a larger crackdown on foreign garbage, which is viewed as a threat to health and environment.

Some countries that have seen an increase in plastic waste imports since China’s ban — such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia — are already looking to enforce bans of their own because they are quickly becoming overburdened, Brooks said.

The study illustrates that plastic, which has a wide array of uses and formulations, is more difficult to recycle than other materials, such as glass and aluminum, said Sherri Mason, who was not involved in the study and is the chair of the geology and environmental sciences department at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

Many consumers attempt to recycle plastic products that can’t ultimately be recycled, Mason said. One solution could be to simplify the variety of plastics used to make products, she said.
“We have to confront this material and our use of it, because so much of it is single use disposable plastic and this is a material that doesn’t go away,” Mason said. “It doesn’t return to the planet the way other materials do.”

The plastics import ban has attracted the attention of the U.S. recycling industry. The National Recycling Coalition said in a statement in mid-May that it must “fundamentally shift how we speak to the public” and “how we collect and process” recyclables.

Also read: A Secret Ingredient Of Your Favorite Sushi: Microplastic

“We need to look at new uses for these materials,” said Marjorie Griek, the coalition’s executive director. “And how do you get manufacturers to design a product that is more easily recyclable.” (VOA)

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To Pursue Philanthropy, Alibaba’s Chief Executive Jack Ma Steps Down

Ma is retiring as at a time when the China is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the US and the Chinese economy is facing slowing growth and increasing debt.

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The logo is displayed at the New York Stock Exchange, in New York. VOA

In a surprising move, China’s richest man, Jack Ma, has revealed plans to step down as the Executive Chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, paving the way for a change of guard for the $420 billion Internet company that he co-founded.

Ma will turn 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China and known as Teacher’s Day.

In an exclusive New York Times interview, the Chinese billionaire said on Friday that his retirement was not the end of an era but “the beginning of an era”.

“I love education,” the Chinese billionaire said, adding that he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.

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A former English teacher, Ma co-founded Alibaba with 17 others out of his apartment in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1999.

He built it into one of the world’s most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things which fuelled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China’s richest man.

Ma is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.

Ma will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management.

The retirement makes Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese Internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies.

alibaba
Visitors walk past a giant display at the Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, May 27, 2016. VOA

Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to nearly rival American Internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition.

Last month, Alibaba reported a 60 per cent increase in quarterly sales, even as profits fell.

The company’s annual revenue totals about 250 billion yuan ($40 billion).

Alibaba has also changed the way people work in China. Millions of people now run their own shops selling goods on its Taobao ecommerce platform or stream their own videos on its entertainment platforms, The Financial Times reported.

Taobao is estimated to have created almost 37m jobs in China, according to a study last year by Renmin University’s School of Labour and Human Resources, the report added.

For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organisations for many years.

Alibaba
Ma is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth. Flickr

In an interview earlier this week, Ma had signaled that he was thinking about focusing more on philanthropy. He cited the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example.

Also Read: Researchers In China Discover a Potential Antibiotic

Ma is retiring as at a time when the China is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the US and the Chinese economy is facing slowing growth and increasing debt, The New York Times report said. (IANS)