Raise your hand if you know what Operation Green Fence is? I certainly didn’t. Well not until recently. Operation Green Fence is a program that was implemented by the Chinese government in 2013. This program allowed China to enforce the regulations that were enacted two years previously in Article 12. Blah, blah, blah. It means that China started inspecting the recyclable material that they were receiving and if it didn’t meet a certain standard, they wouldn’t accept it. Green Fence, get it?
What this means for recycling programs is that they need to get better. In 2017, the US sent 3.7 billion pounds of plastic to China. 2018 saw a decrease of 35% or 1.3 billion pounds of plastic. That’s a lot of plastic that isn’t getting processed. There are already issues with recycling centers in many different states. There are waste management companies in Oregon that are taking plastics to landfills. There are locations in the U.S. that are halting their collection of mixed recyclables. There are plastics being stored in parking lots and tractor trailers because there is nowhere for them to go. We need to figure out what to do with the plastic to effectively recycle it and there is currently no end in sight for supply. The US currently only recycles about 25% of the plastics that it manufactures.
So what does this mean for you? That’s the important question. The answer is, you should still recycle. It is still an important step for eliminating plastic waste. It’s just not where your primary focus should be anymore. Reduce, re-use, recycle. It still applies but they’ve always kind of been in order of importance.
Reduce, reduce, reduce! This is the one that makes the biggest impact. Plastic waste is created by us using plastic, so if it is at all possible, don’t. When we’re not buying products that contain plastic, there isn’t a need to produce more. They aren’t being used.
Reduce. It’s funny how simple that is. Unfortunately, I use way too much plastic and it’s because it’s not really that simple. It takes a lot of effort. Luckily for all of us, lawmakers and businesses are making changes to enable this to be easier. Single use plastics are being banned in many different forms. Companies like Trader Joe’s are making commitments to reduce the plastic in their products. All of this is going to make it easier for us to personally reduce. The key to being successful at any plan is to make it easy. Edging towards plastic free is currently my number one goal.
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AUTHOR: John K. Hagler