ISSUE 1: China closes its barriers to international E-waste, putting a stop on the world’s E-waste recycling
In September 2017, China took the decision to ban 24 kinds of solid waste, including all electronic waste, or E-waste, from entering the country. This caused great problems for many countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Japan, etc. that relied on China to take in all of their E-waste. At that time, China accepted 70 percent of the world’s E-waste. Electronic waste includes cell-phones, computers, ovens, any type of electronic equipment.
Why did China take this decision? It is said that the explanation of the ban is concern for the environment. As most of you probably already know, electronic waste is not the simplest waste to recycle. In the best case scenario, E-waste can be reused, resols or recycled, however, in most cases, it ends in our world’s overflowing landfills. It is in this case that electronic waste can have disastrous consequences on our environment. Indeed, most electronics are made of toxic chemicals and metals that can be very dangerous when tossed away. If these chemicals ever seep into groundwater, they can cause serious health risks
But then what consequences did the ban have on our world’s recycling of E-waste?
First of all, this ban was good news for China both in the environmental and economic sector. Indeed, the ban of importation of millions of tons of waste was a huge relief for China’s overflowing landfills. However, the ban was not sufficient to completely erase China’s waste management problem, it only brought temporary relief. Furthermore, the ban caused a drop in the available supply of potentially reusable e-waste, which highly benefited Chinese recyclers who could sell the reusable E-waste for higher than ever before.
But, as you might have already guessed, this ban was not beneficial for everybody, and especially not for the countries who highly relied on China to take in their waste, including their E-waste. Indeed, in many countries, including the United States, Canada, Britain as well as many European countries, waste is pilling in recycling centers and land to dump waste is getting rarer and rarer. Some countries, rather than trying to solve the problem nationally are seeking new shipping destinations for their waste, amongst these destinations are Southeast Asia and the Middle East. However no country will ever be able to take in as much waste as China has in the past, causing a great problem for developed countries who produce enormous amounts of waste without the adequate waste management systems. Just like the ban was beneficial for China economically and environmentally, it was highly detrimental for the rest of the world in these same sectors. Indeed, it caused many countries to increase the incineration and landfilling of their waste which as we all know are some of the worst waste management methods concerning the environment. Furthermore, this increase in waste that needs to be processed will have a cost for the countries who eventually will have to upgrade their recycling system to keep up with the growing amounts of waste.