B1 Intermediate US 53 Folder Collection
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The idea behind recycling is simple.
By breaking old products down and converting them into
something usable again we conserve natural resources.
It saves forests, cuts emissions and means less pollution.
Sadly, it's not that simple.
Recycling is deeply entwined with our economic system and
right now, doesn't make much economic sense.
It often costs more to recycle than it does to just throw things away,
which is bad news for the environment.
This is your Bloomberg QuickTake on the global recycling crisis.
Recycling took off globally mainly thanks to China.
Back in the nineties China experienced a manufacturing boom
and began exporting more and more goods.
The makers of these goods were hungry for metals and plastics to refashion into new
products and used paper to package them up.
So countries like the U.S. were able to load
the ships recently emptied of Chinese exports with tonnes of their waste.
Everybody won; the U.S. found a huge customer willing to pay for rubbish
which now wasn't going to landfill
and China capitalized on the empty ships returning home,
full of material ready for reprocessing.
For years the amount of waste China collected
grew and grew and the world became reliant.
But that all changed in 2017.
"China has introduced new restrictions on the import of foreign waste."
"The Chinese government now bans the import of 24 types of scrap."
It turns out taking the world's rubbish
wasn't particularly good for China's environment.
"China is tired of importing our trash."
The decision to ban imports sent prices of
waste materials plummeting
and upended global recycling markets,
creating a crisis for communities
that had relied on sales of rubbish to subsidize the cost of collecting it.
In the U.S. the average price of used corrugated cardboard fell 85% in two years
to $28 per ton in August 2019.
Recycled materials are commodities, just like
oil, gold or caviar and their value rises and falls due to market conditions.
For example, when prices are low, it's often cheaper to make that
water bottle from freshly drilled gas.
And careless recycling can add to the cost.
Just one pizza box in a pile of cardboard
can ruin the whole batch as the oils in it can't be separated from the paper fiber.
At the same time, big companies like Mars, PepsiCo and Unilever have vowed to cut use
of virgin plastic and pledged to use more recycled and biodegradable goods,
a feat that may need the re-invention of some manufacturing practices.
So is it worth paying for?
Recycling saves serious amounts of energy,
which in turn means lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Making cans from recycled aluminium uses
95% less energy than mining and using raw materials.
Recycling steel saves 60%, as does recycling paper.
So it boils down to how quickly we're able to remake the way we make things.
As of 2018, we were on track to generate waste
at more than double the rate of population growth through 2050,
so we can expect plenty more rubbish to pile up.
Some communities are running out of room to
store all their trash and have stopped collecting plastic, paper and glass.
Others are just sending material to landfills or burning it.
Such issues have given environmentalists cause to suggest
a more radical approach is needed, saying we should rethink our relationship
with materials and be using less stuff in the first place.
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How China Made - and Broke - Recycling

53 Folder Collection
洪子雯 published on March 19, 2020
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