Chinese, U.S. trade dispute will have environmental impact

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

China has threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods — including soybeans and beef — the former our biggest export to China, the latter only recently reinstated for import after a Mad Cow scare a dozen years ago.

The threat comes in retaliation to President Trump’s threat to impose a similar amount of Chinese goods on the heels of action against washing machines and solar panels.

The possible trade war is already making itself felt in the stock and commodity markets, but American lives are entangled with the Chinese in ways that run far wider and deeper.

For instance, those of us who want to be responsible and recycle our plastic items may find fewer effective ways to do so.

That’s because China stopped accepting imports of used plastics and paper Jan. 1 in its effort, it says, to clean up industrial pollution.

That’s a big deal, since it accounted for 51 percent of the world’s plastic scrap imports, a majority of it coming from the United States.

Instead, it’s begun buying new plastic from companies like DowDuPont Inc. of the U.S., although industrial chemicals are among the products upon which it is now threatening to impose tariffs.

A smaller market for used plastic will divert more of it into landfills or worse, into the environment.

The U.S. has produced 9.1 billion tons of virgin plastic so far, creating 6.9 billion tons of waste, and only 9 percent of it has been recycled.

We’ve all seen those islands of plastic floating in the oceans, and a visit to most rivers will find the banks dotted with discarded plastic.

Micro-plastics are turning up in our drinking water — including bottled water — the fish we eat and in our bodies.

Like so many problems, prevention of plastic pollution is always better than trying to cure it later.

The Earth Day Network has released a Plastics Pollution Calculator (http://bit.ly/2GO8ecb) so consumers can see how much disposable plastic you use each year.

The Earth Day Network is urging consumers to follow the 5 Rs: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove.

You’ve probably seen videos from other countries will much more effective plastic recycling programs, as well as innovative uses such as replacing bitumen with ground plastic for surfacing roads.

With the prediction that the amount of plastic produced will triple over the next three years, it seems like there should be an opportunity to divert U.S. corn or other agricultural products into biodegradable products that would reduce environmental pollution over the long run, although there are questions those actually work.

Like so many problems, reducing plastic pollution requires thought and effort.

Check out more information here: http://bit.ly/2GXzJQF

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