China and the USA are two superpowers of the world, but they are in a trade war with each other. Both countries have started to impose large amounts of tariffs on their imports. The world trade is heavily dominated by these two countries and thus, their economies are interrelated. China is the number one source of imported products and the USA is it’s biggest customer.

Trash Imports

Since 1988, China has imported half of the world’s waste, most of which is generated by the USA. The reason why China was importing USA’s trash was that it had massive exports to the USA. Thousands of containers going to the USA every day coming back empty. This means a huge loss in terms of logistics costs. In order to cope with this high logistical cost, China started importing recyclable waste like plastics, tires, etc.

The segregation and treatment of trash is a very expensive process and there was a high demand for recyclable materials in China. China reuses these materials, uses cheap labor to produce new goods, and then transports them back to the USA. China manufactures products with recycled materials and sells them to the USA. Then, China imports the trash, manufactures the products again, and exports them back to the USA.

The figure below shows that since 2003, the actual plastic recycling has decreased in the last 10 years:

China has enough

In 2017, the Chinese government stopped importing trash from all the countries. It even started imposing strict standards and regulations on the importing of trash. Suddenly, countries were out of a place to dump their trash. This happened because the economy of China had seen a steep incline since they first started importing trash. The economic transition China went through meant that it was producing a lot of trash of its own and did not want to import any more trash from the outside world. After this, the Americans did not have many options than to just dump their recyclables into landfills. Dumping recyclables into landfills is not why we recycle in the first place.

USA’s dependency

The USA contributes 12% of the global municipal waste and recycles only 35% of it. Also, no country wants to go through the recycling process at its own expense as it is too costly and replace China as an importer of global trash (SEMUELS, 2019). This situation gives rise to a variety of alarming questions in the context of how trade is affecting the environment. Recycling is an integral part of keeping the environment safe and since the recycling system of the world’s biggest economy has failed, is it safe to assume that the recyclable waste people separate and put into different colored trash cans is really being recycled? 

Coca-Cola’s contribution to global plastic

China vs USA: Coca Cola Bottle
SOURCE: https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/

Just like big countries, big corporations are also responsible for the alarming effects of climate change. Corporations like Coca-Cola, the world’s number 1 selling beverage product is alone responsible for generating waste of 120 billion plastic bottles a day (Greenpeace Canada, 2018). This is creating havoc and devastating mass pollution. Coca-Cola is aware of the situation and rather than dealing with the waste it is responsible for, it is finding unethical ways to promote the fact that the company is aware of the effect it has on the environment.

Using ‘green-washing’ on its customers, the company recently launched a new set of plastic bottles, with a green symbol on its packaging indicating that it is a plant-based plastic, this is done to falsely make the consumer believe that they are purchasing a bottle that is not harmful to the environment. However, the reality of the situation is that a plant-based plastic bottle is still a plastic bottle and is still non-biodegradable and has the same ill effects on the environment like plastic bottles. Coca-Cola has never taken responsibility for the effects it causes on the environment as they do not want to concur with the high cost of recycling the plastic, the same as the USA.

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