3. Why China Plastics Ban can lead to greater innovation, investment, and sustainable manufacturing in the USA

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Some see the China plastics ban as a huge problem, others see it more as a long term opportunity. We see the proverbial pet bottle as 1/2 full.

1st came the Green Fence… a warning shot. Now the National Sword. Both cool names btw… kudos to China. The China policies (limiting) imports of plastic scrap materials is having a profound change to the plastics recycling eco system here in the USA and around the world. The question is equally WHY and WHAT NOW?

WHY? – We’ve all heard lots of complaints, confusion, and disagreement to the new China National Sword policy, some related to short notice of these new scrap import restrictions, others related to lack of clarity about what recyclables are banned or allowed and for how long. Truth be told, we all saw it coming or should have because it was kind of … “Wild West”.

Irrespective of the impacts the “Sword” is having on our scrap and recycling markets here in the USA, it seems clear the Chinese government is concerned that (garbage) is being willfully sent to their country disguised as recyclables. An official of the Ministry of Environmental Protection told the press in July that “the problem of foreign garbage is loathed by everyone in China.” And the press reports also indicate that a recent documentary, PLASTIC CHINA, alleging the health and environmental harms of imported plastics for recycling, spurred Chinese officials to take action.

SO WHAT NOW ?- The world is very much a connected marketplace and still represents enormous opportunity to trade recyclables and sustainables on a global basis, but what we trade .. where we trade.. how we trade .. are changing along with population growth and environmental issues. More people = more consumption = more products = more waste.

America for the most part has maintained status quo continuing to make products with poor end of use options and exporting much of our plastic waste around the world thinking cheaper labor is a solution. It isn’t. Today 90% + of all plastic products used in the USA find their way to landfills or worse, oceans, beaches, etc. Obviously we haven’t yet implemented a strong solution.

It’s important (we) see the forest through the trees, and adapt. When we say (we) we mean product and packaging manufacturers, and consumer brands, retailers, and consumers, along with solid waste, recycling, and raw material professionals.

Everyone in the USA supply chain involved in making, selling, using, and recycling plastic products have good reason to be concerned. China imports about 30 percent of the plastic waste collected for recycling in America. When China stops buying plastic scrap from America and across the world, it creates a glut here in the USA and as supply-demand dictates, commodity prices drop, leading to reduced recycling rates, increased landfill disposal, and more companies leaving the industry because they can’t make money.

The China National Sword policy is no doubt a problem today… but the important discussion we need to have is … what effect will it have long term and will it ultimately drive innovation, investment, and sustainable manufacturing here in the USA ?


It impacts us all up & down the supply chain, including plastic products and packaging manufacturers that create all the plastic products that are causing all this waste, major brands using plastics to make & package their products, retailers selling all this stuff, and consumers buying all this stuff. It also includes the solid waste management, recycling, and raw material companies that collect and recycle plastic waste after it is all used and that supply sustainable or non sustainable raw material to make plastic products.

We are all part of the circular economy (the eco supply chain) and we are all part of the circular solution! We ourselves have the ability to solve the problem of plastic waste … if we work together!

For those interested in going circular to collaborate to find better ways to make plastic products & packaging more sustainably and to take better responsibility together for these products at end of use, we’d ❤ to talk and find ways to collaborate together.

By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327,,

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