China's plastic recycling helps climate change efforts

Updated: Apr 26, 2022 By Hou Liqiang Print
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A worker operates machines to compress plastic foam and carton boards in Pujin Recyclable Transfer Center in East China's Shanghai. [File photo by Xing Yi/]

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

"Following decades of efforts, China has made marked progress in plastic pollution governance," read the report, which was jointly unveiled on Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

With preferential policies on investment, finance and taxation, China has established a market-based plastic recycling system with wide-ranging coverage, which accounts for over 45 percent 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 and when incinerated, waste plastic discharges heating-trapping gases and other pollutants.

Once such emissions reach a certain level, it results in environmental hazards. All of this makes recycling plastic waste important.

China's plastic recycling efforts over the decade helped reduce consumption of crude oil by 510 million tons and avoid 61.2 million tons in carbon dioxide emissions, the report noted. It also prevented 900 million tons of solid waste from being generated.

It now has the largest plastic recycling capacity in the world. Its huge plastic recycling industry, which employs roughly 900,000 workers, recycled 31 percent of the plastic waste generated nationally in 2021, the report said, about 1.7 times the global average rate.

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

Between 1992 and 2018, China recycled 106 million tons of imported plastic waste, a lot of which was from the European Union and the United States. This helped conserve 318 million tons of crude oil.

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