The United States ships hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic to impoverished countries around the globe for recycling, a process that the people there find overwhelming, The Guardian reports.
According to the newspaper’s analysis of 11 countries, a part of its new “United States of Plastic” series, in the last year the U.S. sent the equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers of plastic to developing countries that mismanage over 70 percent of the plastic waste they produce.
The Guardian notes that Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Laos and Senegal, which all have cheap labor and weak environmental regulations, are some of the more recent “hotspots” for U.S. plastic recycling. Countries like Turkey have had a hard time dealing with a “surge in foreign waste shipments,” that has impacted the country’s ability to manage its own plastic recycling.
Amid these concerns about plastic waste, almost 200 countries have signed a treaty allowing nations to block the import of plastic trash that is contaminated or difficult to recycle. One of the few countries not to sign was the United States.
“People don’t know what’s happening to their trash,” Andrew Spicer, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina, told the Guardian. “They think they’re saving the world. But the international recycling business sees it as a way of making money. There have been no global regulations – just a long, dirty market that allows some companies to take advantage of a world without rules.”
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