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China and others' garbage: the Chinese role in the cross-border transfer of recyclable waste and the repercussions of plastic waste's imports limitations (1990-2018)

Grant number: 20/15862-1
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): February 01, 2021
Effective date (End): December 31, 2021
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Political Science - International Politics
Principal Investigator:Fernanda Mello Sant Anna
Grantee:Luísa Leoni Terra
Host Institution: Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais (FCHS). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Franca. Franca , SP, Brazil


This research project aims to analyze China's position regarding the import of plastic waste between 1990 and 2018 when limitations were imposed on this dynamic; and consequently to the exits found by waste exporters to this new global scenario and the motivations that led to this change in Chinese policy. With the increasing popularization of plastic and the production of non-durable goods driven by consumerism in large centers, acute problems are brought up, mainly due to plastics' wide variety of uses and modes of manufacture, as well as the low potential for reusing the material (in reflection of the need for material differentiation in the recycling process), and its long time of disintegration, recycling is not such an obvious alternative to the issue, and the simple disposal in Nature or in landfills implies even greater problems. However, this dilemma also ends up leading to new trade prospects; seen as a means of cheapening raw materials, recycling was widespread in China in the last decade of the 20th century, which became the main buyer of global waste, reproducing the dynamics of ecologically unequal exchange: importing waste and emissions - the externalities of production -, in a characteristic logic of the North and South Global relations. From the second decade of the 21st century, stricter environmental policies began to gain space worldwide, in view of the escalation of conflicts and climate problems, being followed by China. Thus, the new environmental concerns face the problem of garbage, especially plastic, and aim to create means to correct it locally, without, however, solving the actual uneven international dynamics.

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