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Study: The Top Importers (and Exporters) Of The World’s Plastic Waste And China Won’t Accept Plastic Trash Anymore

The United States stood among the top ten countries importing plastic waste in the period 1988 to 2016. It imported 8.49 million metric tons in 28 years, according to research done by University of Georgia researchers. The total trade value of imports in the United States was $5.18 billion which marked the 3.60% of the global imports.

China with an import of 170.5 million metric tons (MMT) in 28 years topped the charts, accounting for 72.4% of the global imports. With China saying no to plastic waste, the world needs a new plan.

Among the major exporters of plastic waste, globally, Hong Kong, the United States, and Japan grabbed top 3 spots in the period 1988-2016. The export volume from these three countries was, respectively, 56.1 million metric tons (MMT), 26.7 million metric tons (MMT), and 22.2 million metric tons (MMT).

The rest of the countries in the top ten exporters of plastic waste in the period were Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Canada. Together, these ten countries made 78% of the global exports, and the study expects plastic exports from these countries will continue to rise into the future.

The Top Importers of the world’s plastic waste in the period 1988 to 2016:

1. China
Plastic waste import: 106 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $57.6 billion
Share of global imports: 45.1%

2. Hong Kong
Plastic waste import: 64.5 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $23.3 billion
Share of global imports: 27.3%

3. United States
Plastic waste import: 8.49 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $5.18 billion
Share of global imports: 3.60%

4. Netherlands
Plastic waste import: 6.43 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $2.40 billion
Share of global imports: 2.70%

5. Germany
Plastic waste import: 5.36 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $2.30 billion
Share of global imports: 2.30%

6. Belgium
Plastic waste import: 4.15 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $1.81 billion
Share of global imports: 1.80%

7. Canada
Plastic waste import: 3.83 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $1.76 billion
Share of global imports: 1.60%

8. Italy
Plastic waste import: 3.32 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $1.88 billion
Share of global imports: 1.40%

9. India
Plastic waste import: 3.10 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $1.20 billion
Share of global imports: 1.30%

10. Other Asia
Plastic waste import: 2.38 million metric tons (MMT)
Total trade value of imports: $0.97 billion
Share of global imports: 1.01%

The top exporters of the world’s plastic waste in the period 1988 to 2016:

1. Hong Kong
Plastic waste export: 56.1 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $16.7 billion
Share of global exports: 26.1%

2. United States
Plastic waste export: 26.7 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $12.3 billion
Share of global exports: 12.4%

3. Japan
Plastic waste export: 22.2 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $9.64 billion
Share of global exports: 10.3%

4. Germany
Plastic waste export: 17.6 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $6.95 billion
Share of global exports: 8.22%

5. Mexico
Plastic waste export: 10.5 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $4.55 billion
Share of global exports: 4.90%

6. United Kingdom
Plastic waste export: 9.26 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $3.32 billion
Share of global exports: 4.31%

7. Netherlands
Plastic waste export: 7.71 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $3.19 billion
Share of global exports: 3.59%

8. France
Plastic waste export: 7.55 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $3.49 billion
Share of global exports: 3.52%

9. Belgium
Plastic waste export: 6.41 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $2.55 billion
Share of global exports: 2.99%

10. Canada
Plastic waste export: 3.89 million metric tons (MMT)
Cumulative trade value: $1.93 billion
Share of global exports: 1.81%

China Just Handed The World A 111 Million Metric Tons Trash Problem:

For years, China has been the world’s plastic waste dump. At the end of 2017, the Chinese government implemented a permanent ban on the import of non-industrial plastic waste. China accepted 7.35 million metric tons (MMT) of plastic waste intended for recycling in 2016 alone.

It’s also worth noting that more than 320 million metric tons of plastic waste are now created each year globally, and only an estimated 9% gets recycled. About 80% ends up in landfills or the oceans.

Without China to recycle it, 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be “DISPLACED” by 2030. Displaced is a nice way to say thanks and we’ve no idea where it’s going to go.

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Prof. Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj
Prof. Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj is a media and technology executive, macro-economist, strategic thinker, chair, and chief executive officer of the CEOWORLD magazine, one of the world’s most influential and recognized global news publications. Under Dr. Amarendra's leadership, CEOWORLD magazine has become the world's most iconic news organization, whose rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of business leaders daily. Additionally, he serves as the chair and founding member of the CEOWORLD magazine’s Inclusion Advisory Board.

In his current role, he counsels and collaborates with c-suite executives of large multinational corporations, helping them drive change in their companies to improve their competitiveness. Dr. Amarendra has extensive experience in serving on numerous boards. He leads and supports a globally dispersed team of columnists, correspondents, editors, journalists, reporters, researchers, and industry analysts.

He received his Ph.D. in Finance and Banking from the European Global School, Paris, France. He also received his Doctoral Degree in Chartered Accountancy from the European International University Paris, France, and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design (KNUTD), Ukraine. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree in Finance and his master’s degree in Chartered Accountancy (CA) from European Global School Paris. Dr. Amarendra also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in International Relations and Affairs from the American University of Athens, Alabama, United States.

As CEO, he transformed the CEOWORLD magazine into a highly efficient, digital-first, profitable enterprise. Today, CEOWORLD magazine is a standard bearer for modern responsible journalism. Dr. Amarendra retains a strong desire to continuously improve his skills and abilities and believes that the first step to being a true leader is to inspire others to lead with you.


Prof. Dr. Amarendra Bhushan Dhiraj is the CHAIR, CEO, AND EDITORIAL DIRECTOR of the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn.