By Ai Jun
China has been accelerating its economic growth over the past 40 years. But now it is also speeding up environmental protection and the world needs to adapt to that fact.
During the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Council for Trade in Goods on Friday, a US representative asked China not to implement its ban on imports of foreign trash by tossing out a reason: Beijing’s rules had altered far too quickly for the industry to adjust.
Since China notified the WTO in July last year that it would ban the import of 24 types of solid waste by the end of 2017, major rubbish exporters worldwide have been in a state of panic. Their concern is not hard to digest as China was the world’s top destination for recyclable trash. According to reports, more than two-thirds of US wastepaper exports ended up in China in 2016 and about 87 percent of European plastic waste was transported to China from 2000 to 2008.
Decades ago, China was in the early stage of manufacturing development. Importing masses of waste was a temporary measure to accumulate raw capital. Empty foreign beverage bottles could land on China’s small factories to be melted into plastic particles, manufactured into new shells for cigarette lighters and shipped to retail stores in the US or EU.
Precisely because of China’s marvelously fast environmental protection, the nation witnessed sharp improvements in air quality last winter. By the end of 2017, China had already cut particulate matter 2.5 concentrations by about 15.8 percent. “We don’t have a historical example of a country achieving such rapid reductions in air pollution. It’s remarkable,” said Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
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