World Environment Day: China's technological innovations aid in tackling plastic pollution

World Environment Day, observed on June 5, was established by the United Nations in 1973 to raise global awareness and drive action to protect our environment.

This year's theme, #BeatPlasticPollution, highlights the need for solutions to combat plastic pollution. The UN Environment Programme estimates that over 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, with less than 10 percent being recycled. Approximately 19-23 million tonnes of plastic end up polluting lakes, rivers, and seas.

As plastic pollution becomes an urgent issue, China has taken significant steps to address it through technological innovation. The country has prioritized the recycling and utilization of plastic waste, developing a circular economy for plastics.

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Wang Yonggang, secretary-general of the Plastic Recycling Association of the China National Resources Recycling Association, said that China has established a comprehensive waste plastic recycling system, incorporating recycling outlets, sorting centers, and processing factories. Leveraging technologies such as the internet and the Internet of Things, China has innovated recycling models.

China leads the world in waste plastic recycling and in capacity and output of plastic reutilization. By June 2022, over 15,000 companies were involved in waste plastic recycling, employing around 900,000 individuals.

In 2021, China recycled approximately 19 million tonnes of waste plastic, achieving a recycling rate of 31 percent. This rate was nearly 1.74 times the global average during the same period. China's recycling capacity accounted for about 70 percent of the world's total.

Curb 'white pollution' by 2025

China aims to effectively combat "white pollution" by 2025 during its 14th Five-Year Plan period.

The country unveiled a plan in September 2021 that outlined measures to reduce plastic production and usage, develop alternatives to plastic, and significantly decrease plastic waste in landfills and environmental leakage.

Key sectors like retail, e-commerce, and express delivery are expected to dramatically reduce their use of disposable plastic by 2025, according to the plan.

To promote alternatives to plastic, China encourages the use of bamboo, wood, paper, and degradable plastic.

The country has also invested in research on degradable plastic technologies and supported the orderly development of related industries. Recycling and disposal methods for plastic waste have been enhanced nationwide.

Parallel efforts by local authorities

Local authorities in China have also implemented various measures to restrict plastic use.

For instance, the Longgang District in Shenzhen City, south China's Guangdong Province, has launched a pilot project to sort and recycle take-out packaging waste from commercial office buildings.

Smart garbage cans equipped with sensors, cameras, and voice supervision systems have been deployed in communities in Beijing. Some of them have introduced a point reward system, incentivizing residents to properly sort and recycle their waste.

Foshan City in Guangdong Province promotes the use of recycled courier packaging and aims to optimize the recycling process, reduce costs, and provide policy support for the application of recyclable express packaging.

China's commitment to tackling plastic pollution through technological innovation and comprehensive strategies demonstrates its dedication to environmental protection.

Besides tackling plastic waste, the country has also taken actions such as the promotion of the "Beautiful China Initiative" and the strengthening of biodiversity conservation as "important steps" in its national strategy.

(Cover via CFP)

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