A staff member demonstrates how to use an intelligent plastic bottle recycling machine at the Food and Agricultural Products Exhibition Area of the 4th China International Import Expo (CIIE) in east China's Shanghai, Nov 6, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]
China's efforts in recycling plastic waste have made a significant contribution to the battle against climate change, reducing crude oil consumption and preventing millions of metric tons in carbon emissions, according to a report.
"Following decades of efforts, China has made marked progress in plastic pollution governance," said the report, which was jointly released by the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
With preferential policies on investment, finance and taxation, China has established a market-based plastic recycling system with wide-ranging coverage, which accounts for 45 percent of the world's plastic recycling.
From 2011 to 2020, China recycled 170 million tons of plastic waste, said the report.
Plastics production consumes fossil fuels and is energy intensive, while recycling plastic waste brings environmental benefits, said Zhang Deyuan from the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research, the lead author of the report.
Apart from contaminating soil and water, plastic waste also degrades and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Zhang pointed out.
"Research by a number of institutes and scientists shows that plastics can also enter the food chain and be hazardous to people's health," he noted.
China's plastic recycling efforts over the past decade have helped reduce crude oil consumption by 510 million tons and prevented 61.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the report said. These moves also prevented 90 million tons of solid waste from being generated.
The research published in the report refutes claims by a number of international organizations and researchers that China, as the world's largest plastic consumer and producer, faces a serious plastic pollution problem.
"On the contrary, with the development of the circular economy in the country's plastic sector, China has made significant contributions to global plastic pollution governance," said Zhang.
The country now has the world's largest plastic recycling capacity. Its huge plastic recycling industry, which employs around 900,000 people, recycled 31 percent of plastic waste generated in the country in 2021, the report said. China's rate of plastic recycling was about 1.7 times the global average last year.
China also helped dispose of a large amount of plastic waste from other parts of the world, according to the report.
From 1992 to 2018, China recycled 106 million tons of imported plastic waste, much of it from the European Union and the United States, it said. This saved 318 million tons of crude oil from being exploited and consumed.