UKC

/ Thoughts on the Chinese plastic recyclables import ban

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pasbury on 04 Jan 2018

Thought one; what were they doing with it all?
Thought two; why don’t they want to do whatever they were doing with it all any more?
Thought three; why don’t we do anything with it ourselves instead of shipping it halfway across the planet, thus making a total mockery of the rationale for recycling it in the first place?
Thought four; what the f*ck are we going to with all the plastic?
Post edited at 21:59
Yanis Nayu - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

It would help if they didn’t use so much unnecessary packaging in the first place.

Apparently the recycling gets sent over on the empty boats that have delivered products from China.
skog on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> Thought one; what were they doing with it all?

Recycling it into new plastic goods. I imagine they were incinerating and dumping some of it too.

> Thought two; why don’t they want to do whatever they were doing with it all any more?

They want their economy more geared towards producing high value stuff, according to what I've read.

> Thought three; why don’t we do anything with it ourselves instead of shipping it halfway across the planet, thus making a total mockery of the rationale for recycling it in the first place?

It was cheaper and easier to ship it to the Far East. It isn't as daft as it sounds, as we import a lot of stuff from there in by containers, and don't export anything like as much back - so the containers were going back anyway.

> Thought four; what the f*ck are we going to with all the plastic?

One obvious solution is to set up incinerators which can burn it safely and generate either electricity, or hot water for local use. The green lobby, plus NIMBY locals, tend to resist this.
wintertree - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> Thought four; what the f*ck are we going to with all the plastic?

My best bet is to compact it and store it whilst building a big plastic-to-oil pyrolisis plant. Well, that and reduce plastic usage.
captain paranoia - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

It might finally encourage us to think about using plastic packaging sensibly, and making it easy to recycle.
Skip - on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

> One obvious solution is to set up incinerators which can burn it safely and generate either electricity, or hot water for local use. The green lobby, plus NIMBY locals, tend to resist this.

I would definitely put myself in "the green lobby", but am 100% in favour of incinerating waste to produce electricity or hot water.
pasbury on 04 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

Ok your answers are what I expected and raise some issues. I wonder how much was actually properly recycled and how much was burnt or buried. Probably quite difficult to extract these figures from the Chines authorities.

Does what we’ve been doing in shipping our waste in empty containers back to China represent a responsible way of dealing with a toxic waste product?

Why hasn’t there been any government investment in innovative ways of dealing with plastic waste and why are we still finding it so hard to buy stuff that isn’t wrapped in plastic?
Timmd on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Skip:

Seconded. Sheffield heat their council buildings using that method AFAIK.
skog on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Skip:

Good! It seems a sensible solution for the medium-term, to me.

I've seen 'green' objections that such incineration of plastic waste perpetuates reliance on hydrocarbons for fuel, but I dare say the green-minded are not always all of the the same opinion!
Ron Rees Davies - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> Sheffield heat their council buildings using that method AFAIK.

But surely they have a good local source of logs to burn.......

summo on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:
> But surely they have a good local source of logs to burn.......



And once the national parks are reforested there will be lots wood in the Peak.
Post edited at 06:37
1
womblingfree on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

in terms of preference energy from waste (especially for plastic) is only one step up the rung from landfill

in an ideal world we would developed recycling and reprocessing infrastructure here to capture the remaining value of these waste streams, but don't hold your breath.

new waste management laws coming into play in Wales next year, coupled with this China thing might drive infrastructure development, might
girlymonkey - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

The mantra is Reduce, Re-use, recycle. People seem to want to skip the first two steps. These need to be a bigger priority I guess.
jkarran - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

> Thought one; what were they doing with it all?
Sorting it then recycling what was economicialy viable, dumping or burning the rest.

> Thought two; why don’t they want to do whatever they were doing with it all any more?
Presumably because they were dumping what wasn't viable and liberating a load of unpleasant material during the sorting cleaning and recycling process which wasn't then properly processed.

> Thought three; why don’t we do anything with it ourselves instead of shipping it halfway across the planet, thus making a total mockery of the rationale for recycling it in the first place?
Labour cost. Shipping poorly-sorted plastic around the world for recycling certainly degrades the process efficiency but it needn't make a mockery of the idea if what is recovered is significantly greater after fuel costs (potentially very low if the plastic is hitching a ride on otherwise empty boats) than what could be recovered in the country of origin (for economic reasons).

> Thought four; what the f*ck are we going to with all the plastic?
Long term, use much less and of more readily recycleable plastic-types and product designs. Short term, ship it somewhere else for processing!
jk
Post edited at 10:56
Timmd on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Ron Rees Davies:

> But surely they have a good local source of logs to burn.......

The felled trees are suspected to be going to a biomass plant.
summo on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to jkarran:

Tax new plastic by the ton, use the money to fund recycling. Ban plastic wrapping for loose fruit and veg, return to paper bags, they generally have self scanned print labels on so checkouts don't need to see the contents etc..

Lots can be done, with the will of people. There in lies part of the problem, which might be why much of the recycling is badly sorted too.
Clint86 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to girlymonkey:

I went into an EAT outlet near to Birmingham station. The bloke very nicely shrugged his shoulders and said he couldn't when I asked him whether he could serve me with a china mug. I then took my disposable cup up to buy a second drink in. He tried to offer me a fresh one with another lid on it. When I refused, he gave me the 'refill' for free. As is common I guess, I think everything in the cafe was single use, even for those sitting in, except the trays. They have a nice user friendly waste bin to hide all the waste away. I have gone back to using a flask and occasional drinks out if needed, but will look harder for those cafes with china mugs.
GrahamD - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to summo:

> Lots can be done, with the will of people.

Yeah, the will of the people. Right.
Chris the Tall - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

> One obvious solution is to set up incinerators which can burn it safely and generate either electricity, or hot water for local use. The green lobby, plus NIMBY locals, tend to resist this.

"Safely" is the crucial word. The area around the Tinsley incinerator in Sheffield is, or was, a cancer hotspot. Now of course a number of other factors come in to play here, so it's easy to dismiss the statistics or reframe then in such way that shows it as not "significant". But I wouldn't be happy if I lived in that part of Sheffield, would you ?

As someone else has said the Green Lobby argument is Reduce, Re-use, then re-cycle. Unfortunately we are constantly be told to Consume, Consume and then consume yet more

1
RX-78 on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Clint86:
There is an EAT just across the road from my workplace. Many of my colleagues use it, by default they bring back their wrapped sandwiches or soup back in a paper bag with disposable cutlery thrown in as well! Same when using the nearby wasabi. Our office has an eating area that provides steel cutlery for use by anyone.
cb294 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Ban plastic packaging for Chinese goods? Let them send their stuff here in crates or containers. If necessary at all, switch to recyclable retail packaging locally.

Win win IMO.

Also, whoever came up with brilliant idea of selling screw drivers packaged in a cardboard / plastic compound shrink wrap abominations should be tie up and buried alive on the next landfill.

CB
Bellie on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

Thought two: its a messy business and China is trying to clean up some of its industries to meet green targets apparently. All the hard sorting out is being left.

Thought three/four: We can. We just need to get on with reshaping the whole recycling process, which has been geared to shipping lots of it off elsewhere.

here is one such bright spark's solution:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-39693091/can-plastic-roads-help-save-the-planet
skog on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Chris the Tall:

Sweden manages to do it, and it isn't exactly a cancer-ridden hellscape!

The Swedes even go as far as to import rubbish for incineration.

I trust all those against incinerators are also strongly opposed to, say, firework displays..?
Clint86 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

Firework displays: Ok in moderation, but not as they are nowadays.They become boring after the initial impact, and I think I heard right that London's New Years Eve display was 10.5 minutes long.

I don't think being a 'cancer ridden hellscape' is the criteria we should be using to judge our behaviour by. Plenty of carefully researched news in the papers today about oxygen depletion in the oceans caused by emmissions to worry about.
1
skog on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Clint86:

> I don't think being a 'cancer ridden hellscape' is the criteria we should be using to judge our behaviour by.

You're right. Let me rephrase, then: Sweden manages to do it, and is also one of the very healthiest nations on Earth.
Neil Henson - on 05 Jan 2018

> Also, whoever came up with brilliant idea of selling screw drivers packaged in a cardboard / plastic compound shrink wrap abominations should be tie up and buried alive on the next landfill.

Agreed. You need a damn screw driver to open the packaging. They should build safes out of that stuff - it is nigh on impossible to get into.

Chris the Tall - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:


> I trust all those against incinerators are also strongly opposed to, say, firework displays..?

Oh if we ban firework displays at the same time I'd be very happy - our Norfolk Terrier goes mad !

And I'm not saying that it isn't possible to incinerate rubbish safely, but I am aware that it it is far from simple

bedspring on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

I think its a great idea. Will make us have to sort our shit out. Also interesting on the global stage that China is positioning itself as an Eco leader.
springfall2008 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:
What we need is Plasma Gassification, it's like burning without the nasty emissions:

http://advancedplasmapower.com/solutions/our-technology/

Post edited at 15:11
pasbury on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to cb294:

It’s the food packaging that bugs me, everything in a plastic tray or shrink wrapped swede anyone (that makes it go off quicker)?
I think it’s also less likely to be recyclable.
cb294 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

That is why I buy as much as I can from a local market, armed with cotton bag and willow basket!

CB
captain paranoia - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Chris the Tall:

> The area around the Tinsley incinerator in Sheffield is, or was, a cancer hotspot. Now of course a number of other factors come in to play here

Almost any incineration will produce dioxins, to some extent. These can be controlled by proper incineration and flue gas treatment. It's the maintenance of 'proper' that may be the problem...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioxins_and_dioxin-like_compounds#Environmental_sources
captain paranoia - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Bellie:

> Thought two: its a messy business

Sorting waste is a messy, manual business. A mate works in the paper industry, and has visited a number of recycling plants (in the UK). Hot, smelly, long hours. Their 'human resources' departments work full time recruiting; the staff turnover rate is about 30% a month...

That's why we need packaging that is designed to be easy to recycle (no mixed materials, easily identifiable materials), and properly sorted recycling (collection by sorted material, not just all dumped into a purple wheelie bin).

We also need to reduce, reduce, reduce the vast amount of unnecessary packaging on all products. And re-introduce deposits on recyclable drinks containers; that will increase recycling, reduce littering, and give the homeless a potential income stream...

Paper takes a lot of energy to make. Just as a reminder to the 'just go back to paper bags and cardboard boxes and everything will be rosy' crew...
Clint86 - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to captain paranoia:

.....and reduce the number of unpackaged products/stuff that we buy.....
summo on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to captain paranoia:

> Paper takes a lot of energy to make. Just as a reminder to the 'just go back to paper bags and cardboard boxes and everything will be rosy' crew...

Of course, but you can source that energy from renewables. Forest, water and green energy can be sourced from similar locations.

Plus paper can be reused and recycled through various stages, be it high quality stuff, cheap, and cardboard. Then when finished with will burn. Trees grow back much quicker than oil deposits form.
1
boriselbrus - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to pasbury:

When I was involved in recycling a few years ago the Chinese paid for the plastic waste IIRC it was around £100/tonne. They wouldn't have done that if they were just burning or dumping it.

And the plastic was shipped back to them in what would otherwise have been an empty container on an empty ship. The west exports very little to China and imports a lot from them, so full containers are pretty much one way.
Dax H - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to captain paranoia:

> Almost any incineration will produce dioxins, to some extent. These can be controlled by proper incineration and flue gas treatment. It's the maintenance of 'proper' that may be the problem...

Modern incinerators have very expensive monitoring systems to ensure the exhaust gasses are within approved limits.
I deal with a few that use a thing called a CHEMS unit, basically 3 concave gold mirrors with light beams bouncing back and forth thousands of times. The unit alalises the purity of the light as it passed the exhaust gas through the unit.
If it fails the incinerator won't run so there is no bypassing it.
I don't know if they are all like this but the ones I work on are.

Timmd on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:
> The felled trees are suspected to be going to a biomass plant.

That the people of Sheffield can't find out where their trees are going, because of it being 'commercially confidential' thanks to private company AMEY being awarded the contract to manage Sheffield's trees by the council, is an outrage. The trees were given to us by earlier generations, and help to keep the air clean and provide a habitat for nature, and reduce how old people feel by an average of 7 years where trees are outside their homes.

If people in other cities ever get a chance, join the other cities who have removed themselves from a contract with AMEY by doing anything you can to avoid one in the first place.
Post edited at 19:09
captain paranoia - on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Dax H:

> Modern incinerators have very expensive monitoring systems to ensure the exhaust gasses are within approved limits.

That's the 'proper' I was referring to.

Sadly, all industrial processes require adequate maintenance to continue to run 'properly'. This maintenance isn't always as routine as it should be, due to commercial pressures.
womblingfree on 05 Jan 2018
In reply to Dax H:

aye, most of the big, new energy from waste plants are regulated to within an inch of their life, if they're out they risk loosing their operation permit

the temperature they burn at and the technology they employ to deal with &treat emissions is a million miles away from what people think of as plain old incineration

still not as good as reprocessing the plastic!
summo on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to captain paranoia:

> That's the 'proper' I was referring to.
> Sadly, all industrial processes require adequate maintenance to continue to run 'properly'. This maintenance isn't always as routine as it should be, due to commercial pressures.

I'll bet that the Uk regulations on burning waste are much stricter than those many countries employ in making new plastics, before shipping said items to the UK. Out of sight, out of mind?
Dax H - on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to captain paranoia:

> That's the 'proper' I was referring to.

> Sadly, all industrial processes require adequate maintenance to continue to run 'properly'. This maintenance isn't always as routine as it should be, due to commercial pressures.

That is my point though, they are very closely regulated by the environment agency so if the imissions are out of range they are shut down, often automatically. The EA carry out spot checks too and the fines are eye watteringly massive
Dax H - on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to womblingfree:

> still not as good as reprocessing the plastic!

I'm not going to argue with a womble about waste reprocessing.

You are 100% incineration should be the last resort.
Reduce, reuse, recycle should always be the chain of command.

captain paranoia - on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to summo:

> before shipping said items to the UK. Out of sight, out of mind?

I'm very much against shipping our waste overseas; I thought I'd made it clear that we should reduce and recycle much better than we do.

I'm also not philosophically opposed to incineration; done properly, it's better than landfill.

> Trees grow back much quicker than oil deposits form.

It grieves me that we burn those oil deposits as fuel, when they could be the feedstock for useful engineering plastics.

Dauphin on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

Presumably those trees are the same ones making many holes in Sheffield's desperate road network and very probably housing foundations. It's not the end of the world if a few of them get felled.

This is from a tree hugging whale ( dolphin ) lover.

D
Timmd on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to Dauphin:
> Presumably those trees are the same ones making many holes in Sheffield's desperate road network and very probably housing foundations. It's not the end of the world if a few of them get felled.

> This is from a tree hugging whale ( dolphin ) lover.

> D

The operative word here is 'presumably'. In many cases, the reasons for the trees being felled are hard to fathom. For a rare elm tree which is on the list of trees to be felled, a third party (an expert in the coexistence of trees and roads) came up with much smaller sum for keeping the tree than AMEY/Sheffield City Council have come up with.

The 'nub' of people's opposition is that the reasoning has every appearance of being a financial one, ie cut them down now and replant saplings to save money during the 25 year contract, rather than maintaining the trees for their predicted lifespan, benefiting insects and wildlife, air quality, flood prevention measures (from slowing the rate at which water gathers), and the mental health of residents too (the links between living among trees and better mental health are google-able).

Sheffield's roads are appalling where there have never any trees, too. It's mildly shameful but true.
Post edited at 20:17
Timmd on 06 Jan 2018
In reply to Dauphin:

There's probably irritation at the tree situation in Sheffield which comes across in my post. None is aimed at yourself.
Toerag - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to skog:

> The Swedes even go as far as to import rubbish for incineration.

This is what's going to happen to our waste here in Guernsey shortly. It's been land-filled in disused granite quarries for donkeys years and they're all now full. So, paper, cardboard, glass, tetrapack, green waste and non-black solid plastics get recycled, food waste will get separated out for composting and the resulting black bag waste will be baled, containerised and sent to Sweden. The ships going from Guernsey to the UK are more or less empty, and the ships from the UK to Sweden are the same having delivered paper to the UK. The Swedish plant not only generates electricity, but also feeds a community heat grid. The cost of this is cheaper than sending it to Jersey's incinerator 28 miles away due to the low gate price charged by the Swedes - they get income from the properties the heat grid supplies.


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