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Global plastic waste exports to China 2017-2018

In February 2017, almost 600,000 metric tons of plastic waste was exported by some 90 countries to China. China has historically been the dumping ground for foreign nations waste, importing approximately two-thirds of the world's plastic waste in 2016. However, in 2017 China introduced new environmental laws which led to a decline in plastic waste imports. In the same year the country announced the "National Sword Policy", which began on January 1st 2018. This effectively halted all foreign waste imports, and by February 2018 global exports to China had fallen massively.

The ban caused huge problems for the global recycling industry, with large quantities of waste piling up or being landfilled as export nations scrambled for new ways to deal with their waste. Countries such as the United States began rerouting their shipments to South East Asian nations such as Malaysia and Thailand. However, following China's lead Malaysia has also clamped down on waste imports, sending back shipments of plastic waste. Wealthy nations are now having to rethink how they deal with their garbage footprint.

Global plastic waste exports to China in February 2017 and February 2018

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Release date

June 2018


Worldwide, China

Survey time period


Supplementary notes

Export nations include Japan, U.S., Germany, Thailand, Indonesia ( 2018 export data were not available), UK, South Korea, Belgium, Mexico, Hong Kong and 81 other nations

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Statistics on "Global plastic waste"

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