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Every year, about 60 million people visit
mainland China from around the world.

Mostly, to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and
Shenzhen.

These, not coincidentally, are unofficially
known as Tier One cities - they have large

urban populations, fast-growing economies,
and enough Starbucks to make you feel right

at home.
But this is only one of several, very different
Chinas.

A trip to a Tier 3 or 4 city, or, especially,
a village in the country, paints a whole different

picture.
For example, just 15 miles outside Beijing
and its 9th-tallest building in the world,

lies a very different kind of skyscraper:
piles and piles of trash.

Some, eight or more stories tall.
Here, something like 160,000 locals collect,
sort, and resell the city's twenty-five

thousand tonnes of trash a day.
Entire communities revolve around and survive
on these landfills.

But, look closely, and you might notice something
strange…

Between the Chinese water bottles, tires and
so on, are, say, German newspapers, British

grocery bags, and American milk jugs.
That's because, for decades, China has been
buying the world's trash.

Since 1988, it's imported almost half of
all plastic waste.

The U.S. alone has sent thousands of containers
full of plastic every day.

Then, in 2017, China announced it didn't
want any more.

Its standards became so strict that many countries
suddenly had no place to put their garbage.

It all started piling up, and fast.
In Western states like Washington, Oregon,
and California, recycling had to be sent to

the dump.
Ireland, which had been sending 95% of its
plastic waste there, experienced a near-crisis.

So, why did China want your trash in the first
place?

And why is it stopping now?
It's hard to overstate how much the economies
of China and the United States are connected.

Unsurprisingly, China is the number one source
of imports to the U.S., and it, China's

biggest customer.
Every week, hundreds of container ships make
their way from Shanghai or Hong Kong, across

the Pacific, towards the American West Coast.
They deliver your car, your sofa, your dinner.
But, as you also may know, the U.S. doesn't
have as much to send back.

Which, means, big, scary, negative numbers,
and a lot of talk about soybeans.

This would be a major problem - ships would
have to make the two-week return trip empty,

and thus, double their one-way prices, making
everything more expensive.

Imagine how inefficient it would be if every
airplane or car had to return from its trip

without passengers.
Oh wait, that's just called Uber.
The U.S. needs something to ship back to Asia.
Luckily, there is something we're really
good at producing a lot of: trash!

Americans make up only 4% of the world's
population, but we generate 25% of the world's

garbage and dominate 90% of your headlines.
You're welcome.
On average, each of us contributes 4.4 pounds
of waste a day, for a total of 16 billion

diapers, 2 billion razor blades, and 220 million
tires a year.

It also doesn't help that we order everything
on Amazon.

And that tiny pack of gum arrives in a 4-foot
box… inside another giant box, of course.

In fact, packaging takes up a third of the
space of the average landfill.

Which, is cool and all when it magically disappears
from your curb, but not so much when the city

wants to build the dump in your backyard.
Anywhere but there.
We Americans are great at buying stuff and
turning it into trash but not as good at doing

something with it afterward.
High labor and transportation costs make it
quite expensive to drive around the country

to sort, clean, and re-process.
Meanwhile, China has plenty of cheap labor
and lots of demand for raw materials they

can manufacture new stuff with.
Plus, we've already got a bunch of humungous
boats making the journey at low capacity.

As the saying goes: one man's trash is another
country's cheap source of recyclable materials,

which may or may not be environmentally sustainable,
but we'll get to that in a minute.

Thanks to good old supply and demand, shipping
a 20-foot container from Shanghai to Los Angeles

might cost a thousand dollars.
The other way, four, five hundred.
Here the trade deficit works in our favor.
The U.S. gets rid of its garbage, and China
gets cheap materials.

To see how it works, let's look at San Fransisco.
Waste is split into three separate bins.
Compost, like vegetables, grass, and napkins,
accounts for about 9% of all municipal waste.

It's checked for contaminants, mixed, and
sent 60 miles North to Vacaville, California,

where it's sold to farms and wineries as
high-nutrient soil.

That's ideal.
But about half of all waste, is sent to the
dump.

It gets picked up, sometimes moved to a temporary
transfer station, and then hauled to a landfill,

where the plastic bag you used for a few seconds
between the store and your car sits for 1,000

years.
Not that you should feel… bad or anything.
The rest is mostly recycling.
Now, sorting it can get pretty expensive.
Buuuttt, it's hard enough to get people
to recycle anything, much less when you make

them separate it.
So, San Fransisco, like many cities, uses
single-stream recycling - everything from

paper, to plastic, metal, and glass, goes
in a single bin, and then gets sorted at a

MRF, a Materials Recovery Facility.
Over 40 tons of waste is processed every hour
at the 200,000 square foot Pier 96.

Tractors scoop piles of recycling onto conveyor
belts, where it gets sorted by humans, mechanical

dividers, and optical scanners.
Apparently it's not uncommon for people
to recycle a bowling ball.

Finally, the separated materials are sold
and shipped around the world.

Sometimes, they move through several countries,
making it hard to track exactly where it all

ends up.
For example, Mexico sends much of its plastic
to the U.S., and the U.S. exports mainly to

China, often through Hong Kong.
So it's likely that even more of our trash
than we think eventually ends up in China.

After being shipped thousands of miles across
the Pacific, eaten or used, thrown away, collected,

and then making the whole journey back, much
of this trash will end up just a few miles

away from where it was first manufactured
in Southern China.

And then, it'll be recycled and go through
it all again.

This is an extremely profitable business,
It's even how Zhang Yin, nicknamed the Queen

of Trash, became one of China's richest
women.

It worked so well, in fact, that nobody was
prepared for a world any different.

But that started to change in 2013 with Operation
Green Fence, in which China announced it would

start enforcing quality standards for imported
trash.

Then, in 2017, the more aggressive sounding,
National Sword - a crackdown on illegal smuggling.

Finally, the Blue Sky policy in 2018 added
even tougher restrictions and a plan to ban

all recyclable imports by 2020.
For months, companies like Rogue Disposal
and Recycling, in Medford, Oregon, had no

choice but to dump recycling in landfills.
Which, surprise, is not a great way to encourage
more recycling.

Since then, U.S. exports to Thailand have
increased by nearly 7,000%, along with Vietnam,

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
But, soon, they too started closing their
doors - no one can or wants to replace China.

And that isn't such a bad thing.
It may actually be really good.
Until now, rich countries have had no incentive
not to generate insane amounts of waste.

Actually, it's been quite profitable!
This could be a very good long-term wake-up
call.

Despite complaints from the U.S. government,
China has no obligation to import anyone's

garbage.
Like any export, trash is a product.
If demand changes, so must supply.
This is yet another sign of China's Great
Economic Transition.

Trash is a remarkably good indicator of economic
health.

Here's the amount of trash generated by
each country, and here's their GDP.

One of the reasons China no longer wants your
trash is that now has plenty of its own.

It's also part of Beijing's push to lower
its pollution and clear its skies.

This year, China is expected to pass the U.S.
and become the largest consumer market.

By 2030, it's expected to generate three
times as much waste as the U.S.

And as China becomes more and more important
on the world stage, all of us will fall into

two categories: those who understand it, for
whom this is a great opportunity, and those

who are left behind.
My favorite book for getting a feel for what
the country is really like and where it may

go in the future is “China in the 21st Century”
by Jeffrey Wasserstrom.

I read it while researching this video, and
I recommend it - it's only 5 hours long

and you can listen to it on Audible!
Let's be real, we all have busy lives and
it's kinda hard to find an hour or two during

the day where you can sit down and read.
But it's easy to put on an audiobook on
the way to work or school, or while doing

chores, or writing long rambling YouTube comments.
Not that you guys would do that…
What I like about this book, in particular,
is that it's a nice, general overview of

China, It doesn't pretend to know the future,
and it doesn't have any kind of agenda,

it's a straightforward, objective explanation.
Go to Audible.com/Polymatter or text polymatter
to 500500 to start listening to this book

or whatever you're into for free!
Again, that's Audible.com/p-o-l-y-m-a-t-t-e-r
or text p-o-l-y-m-a-t-t-e-r to 5-0-0-5-0-0.

コツ:単語をクリックしてすぐ意味を調べられます!

読み込み中…

Why China Doesnt Want Your Trash Anymore

167 タグ追加 保存
PENG 2019 年 5 月 2 日 に公開
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