Trash is easy for people to forget. Even the trash collection in the U.S. tries to be as invisible as possible. However, waste management has not only become one of the top environmental issues that is desperate for some solution, but also a billon dollar economic issue in the U.S – China trade war.
As the largest producer of trash, U.S. has been relying on China to deal with its waste. After China deliver its product to the U.S the same container would be filled with America’s trash on its way back to China. This has worked since 1985, since the shipping cost is low, and China is willing to take American trash for a profit until the end of 2017, making the U.S scrambling for a new solution.
Chinese film director Wang Jiuliang debuted Plastic China in 2016 a documentary on a family living among plastic waste in rural China. The film invoked a public outrage, and the Chinese government announced it would not take on more low grade U.S plastic waste. In a study by Science Advances, the U.S. would have 111 million tons of plastic trash without a taker by 2030.
Upon China’s exit, the U.S. tried to find a replacement, but countries like Vietnam, or Indonesia simply aren’t equipped to fill in China’s shoes.
In the U.S, the government is also trying to find a solution. However, it has been proved it is not an easy battle to fight.
One of the main issues in the U.S trash recycling business is low recycling rate and high cost of recycling. According to Rubicon, 90 percent of solid waste in the U.S are left in landfills, and most city residents don’t recycle the correct way. This creates a major issue for the recycling company, and making processing recyclable trash expensive.
Without any taker, recyclable trash ends up in the landfill, adding to the $11.4 billion worth of recyclable trash the U.S. throws away every year.
However, different cities are still looking for different solutions. The city of Austin, Texas took a page from the Taiwanese government with implementing the pay as your throw program, as a way to force people to recycle their trash correctly.
Taiwan had one of the worst cases of waste problem. The country fixed it by getting rid of almost all the trash cans in the city. Residents in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital go out to throw away their trash at a designated hour each day, and if they aren’t recycling the right way, they would get a ticket.
For the foreseeable future, the battle to deal with trash in the U.S. continues, but it is crucial to change people’s behavior. Find out how to recycle here