State-Run News Agency: China Is ‘Global Backyard for Trash’

The state-run mouthpiece Xinhua complains in a recent article that China is the “global backyard for trash.”
State-Run News Agency: China Is ‘Global Backyard for Trash’
A pond has a pink color because of pollution by a nearby plastic waste factory in northern China's Hebei Province, on Oct. 22, 2014. (
Frank Fang

China’s trash problem is so bad that regime mouthpiece Xinhua published an article on Jan. 6 headlined “Not a Rumor, China is the Global Backyard for Trash.” Xinhua makes the case that the mounds of trash the article complains about are imported from the West, but others in China leapt to point out that the fault lay with the Chinese regime, not Western countries.

“Even if we are poor, we cannot make a living by processing imported Western trash. However hard it might be, we cannot treat Western trash like adorable babies, allowing beautiful China to become a global dumping ground,” Xinhua said.

As China has become the world’s second-largest economy, reports and images of environmental problems, including air and water pollution and waste problems, are abundant in the media.

Xinhua said, “Plastic waste from the United States and medical waste from England, after traveling miles across oceans, all land at China’s docks—because Chinese buyers are willing to spend twice the price to buy the waste back, process it, and sell it.”

We cannot treat Western trash like adorable babies.
Xinhua news agency

Reports & Numbers

Xinhua cited data from China, the United States and the U.K. in showing that China’s trash came from Western countries.

The Telegraph reported on November 2012 that 70 percent of plastics for recycling are sent to the Far East, and that China is no longer accepting low-grade plastic sent from the UK.

According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report in 2012, the export values of U.S. waste and scraps to China increased more than 15 times, from $740 million in 2000 to $11.5 billion in 2011.

Imported plastic, steel, and paper waste increased by more than 125-fold, 50-fold, and 21-fold, respectively, from 1990 to 2003 Shanghai Security News reported in January 2007.

Trash is piling up like small mountains. Rivers are as black as oil.
Worker's Daily

Pollution From Imported Trash

Eyewitness accounts are the most telling. Lian Jiao, a village in southern Guangdong Province, was covered by “western trash” according to the Xinhua article, citing an article published in the state-run Worker’s Daily in January 2007.

“Black smoke is coming from all chimneys. Trash is piling up like small mountains. Rivers are as black as oil,” the Worker’s Daily reporter said, describing how the recycling industry had prospered in the city.

Xinhua also included the views of Wang Jiuliang. Wang spent nearly three months using his camera to document how trash had polluted multiple Chinese coastal provinces. He posted his photographs on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site similar to Twitter.

While the regime has a law (Article 25) that prohibits importation of medical waste, one of Wang’s photos shows a child playing with a syringe in the middle of tons of medical plastic waste.

Another photo of Wang’s shows a pond with a pinkish color because of pollution from a nearby plastic waste factory in northern Hebei Province.

In his blog, Wang blames the international community for exporting trash to China, with China becoming the biggest importer of plastic waste.

The trash we have now is different—harder to degenerate and impossible to be absorbed by the soil.
Fu Guoyong, a Chinese writer in Zhejiang Province

Inadequate Regulation

Contrary to the Xinhua report, an article titled “Don’t Blame Other Countries as China Becomes the Global Backyard for Trash” was published on China Netease, one of the China’s most popular Internet portals, on Jan. 6.

The article blames the Chinese regime’s inadequate environmental policy.

In two environmental measures published by the World Economic Forum in 2013—Stringency of Environmental Regulation and Enforcement of Environmental Regulation—out of 140 countries, China ranks 67th and 63rd, respectively.

Ethiopia comes in 62nd in the ranking of regulation enforcement, and Philippines is ranked 66th in terms of regulation stringency.

As for the overflow of plastic waste, the chemical industry in China could not meet the ever increasing per capita demand for plastics—48.5 pounds in 2005 to 101.4 pounds in 2010—meaning that China had to process imported plastic waste from the international market as raw materials, Xinhua reported in March 2011.

China imported 58,600 tons of plastic waste in 2006, increasing to 83,800 tons in 2011, the environmental platform reported.

Response from Mainland Chinese

“Trash is a huge problem both in the cities and villages,” said Fu Guoyong, a Chinese writer in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province in an interview with Epoch Times. “The trash we have now is different—harder to degenerate and impossible to be absorbed by the soil.”

Chinese netizens reacted with outrage when posting comments on Sina’s Finance website.

“How did western trash get into the country? The officials in charge should be sentenced to death,” said a Beijing netizen with the moniker “1420646015.”

“Where is our government?” said a netizen from Hubei Province with the nickname “Jia Fu Suo.”

“Mainland Chinese do not have any religious faith. They don’t have any moral values. So they could do anything,” said a Beijing netizen with the pen name “Blueskyforme.”

Read the original Chinese article.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
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