India stops waste plastic imports as China’s ‘recycled commodities’ ban triggers trash crisis in US

India has completely banned the import of solid plastic waste into the country, leaving the United States with one less major recycling outlet after China, amid the ongoing trade war, stopped importing all foreign trash last year.

“The country has now completely prohibited the import of solid plastic waste by amending the Hazardous Waste (Management & Trans-boundary Movement) Rules on March 1,” an environment ministry official said this week.

Before the ban came into effect, the South Asian country had allowed local regional governments in special economic zones (SEZs) to make a buck from foreign waste. However, overwhelmed with its own unrecycled garbage, India has now switched gears, focusing its effort on closing the gap between domestic waste and its recycling capacity. The country’s ultimate goal is to phase out single-use plastic by 2022.

Western countries, and the US in particular, have very limited domestic capability to process and recycle waste, having become used to shipping it overseas for decades. After China banned 24 types of solid waste last year and placed tougher restrictions on waste imports, the US tried to diversify its recycling outlets by sending the scraps to India and Vietnam.

With Chinese and now Indian markets off the table, recycling centers across the US will have even more difficulty dealing with their waste. India’s ban on waste imports comes at a time of increased trade friction with the US. Just this week President Donald Trump ordered the US Trade Representative’s Office to drop the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program for India, under which the country enjoyed zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States.