New study finds that 111m metric tonnes of plastic waste will be displaced following the China ban

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Scientists from the University of Georgia (UGA) have calculated that about 111 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is going to be displaced up to 2030 due to the Chinese import ban. 

The study aimed to calculate the potential global impact of the China ban on the import of non- industrial plastic waste and how it might impact efforts to reduce this material from entering the environment.  


UGA college of engineering associate professor and co-author of the study Jenna Jambeck said: “We know from our previous studies that only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, and the majority of it ends up in landfills or the natural environment. 

“About 111 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is going to be displaced because of the import ban through 2030, so we’re going to have to develop more robust recycling programmes domestically and rethink the use and design of plastic products if we want to deal with this waste responsibly.”   

She added that it is hard to know what will happen to the plastic waste that would have been sent to Chinese processing facilities and said that although it could be diverted to other countries, most lack the infrastructure to manage their own waste.  

UGA college of engineering doctoral student and lead author of the paper Amy Brooks argued that plastic waste was once a profitable business for China but said that a lot of the plastic it received lacked quality and became difficult to make a profit from.  

The associate professor said that without new ideas and major system changes, “even the relatively low current recycling rates will no longer be met, and our previously recycled materials could now end up in landfills”. 

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