If You Don’t Know, Now You Know – Asian Nations Reject Western Trash | The Daily Show

Posted By on September 14, 2019

When you think of recycling, you probably think
of a magical process where you throw your plastic
in the blue bin, and a unicorn takes it away,
and then nine months later you get a beautiful
new baby water bottle. -(laughter)
-But the truth is, much like making an actual baby,
the recycling process is much messier
than what you may believe. NEWSWOMAN: When most of us
put out our recycling on trash day,
recyclers sort through it, bundle it up and ship it
overseas to be recycled. For decades, much of that waste
was sold to China. NEWSMAN: America’s main export
to China by volume was trash: recycled metal,
cardboard and plastic. For decades,
China’s been a global dustbin, taking huge quantities of
our rubbish and recycling it. NEWSWOMAN:
The relationship was symbiotic. China would ship goods
to the U.S. The U.S. would use
the empty ships to send China recycling. China would then use
the recycling to make new goods
to ship to the U.S., and the cycle continued. Yep. From China to America and then back to China
and then to America again. Basically, it’s…
♪ The circle of trash ♪ ♪ Paper, plastic into paper,
ah, paper ♪ ♪ Plastic into paper ♪ ♪ Ah, paper,
plastic into paper. ♪ (applause) Yeah. Believe it or not,
America creates so much trash that it’s had to send it
over to China to be recycled. Which isn’t really surprising
when you think about it. Like, nobody is better
at creating unnecessary trash than America.
I mean, this is the same country where you can buy orange slices
in a plastic container. Yeah. As if there wasn’t already
a container for orange slices -called an orange.
-(laughter) It’s in the container. And for a very long time,
the relationship worked. Right? America sent China
its recycling. China turned it into
fake Louis Vuitton bags. But then… just like your ex, after a while China decided
it was sick of taking trash. NEWSWOMAN:
By 2012, China was receiving nearly half
of all the recycling that Americans
shipped out of the country. A lot of those materials
could not be recycled. They were ending up
in landfills, the environment or, worse,
taking a human toll. Now the country is trying
to clean up its image. In January,
China stopped taking most of the dirty recycling
it called “foreign garbage,” which means some
seven million tons of plastic needs to be recycled elsewhere. Yep. You see, back when China
was a poorer country, they were fine with sorting
through America’s recycling. But now that they’re more rich
and more powerful, they’ve decided that
that’s beneath them. Which is understandable, right? You start making some money,
you upgrade your life. It’s like when you get
a big promotion, you know, so you start buying the super
soft toilet paper, yeah, instead of using napkins
you stole from Burger King. You know what I mean. You know when you
lay them together and you make sure
the corners overlap– We’ve all done that, come on. So with China no longer taking
America’s plastic, all the recycling has had
to find somewhere else to go. And for a while, there were
a lot of countries in Asia that were willing to take it, in fact, they were happy
to take it. TV REPORTER: This used to be
mostly paddy fields, but rubbish,
which has been dumped here for almost 40 years,
dominates the landscape. Villagers here don’t mind. In fact, they welcome it. Like many others,
Giman makes a living from sorting through
the waste. TRANSLATOR:
This used to be a poor area. I couldn’t even afford
to go to school. But with this trash, I could put my three children
through school. My oldest is getting a PhD. (audience reacts) That’s insane, right? Like, that is… one of
the craziest things ever. This guy managed to get his kids
a degree from trash, which is ironic, because
that trash probably contained a few actual degrees. And his story
wasn’t the only one. Many people around Asia
were making money by sorting through America’s
recycling, all right, which isn’t a great job, but, for many people,
it changed their lives. But as we said earlier,
America uses a lot of plastic. And after China closed
its doors, many of these smaller countries
couldn’t handle the volume of plastic recycling that was coming into
their country. It turned it from a blessing
into a curse, which is always the case
with plastic, let’s be honest, right? Whether it’s plastic recycling
or plastic surgery, a little bit is okay. Yeah? Yeah.
But if you do too much, you look like you’re
always watching the end of an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Just like, “What?
They’re allergic to water?!” (laughter) So, just like China, all these
other countries have decided that they’ve had enough
of Western trash. “We don’t want
your recyclable trash,” that is the message
from Cambodia. That country just sent back
83 shipping containers filled with 1,600 tons
of plastic waste back to the U.S. and Canada,
saying, “Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries
can dispose of waste.” TV REPORTER: Countries like
the Philippines say it’s Western waste
littering their shores, sent to poorer countries
instead of being recycled. TV REPORTER: The president
of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte even made it
very clear to Canada that the trash was not welcome,
to send it back to Canada. -Your garbage is, uh,
-On the way. on, uh, on-on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to. (laughter) Oh, wow! -Wow.
-(cheers and applause) Rodrigo Duterte
does not mess around. Prepare a grand reception
for your trash and eat it if you want to? It’s a slam, but it’s such
a weirdly formal way to tell someone
to shove it up their ass. Like… No. Like, I’d love
to hear Duterte deliver a “yo mama” joke. He’s just like, “Your mother
has overindulged so much “that the government
recently bestowed upon her her own area code. Slam.” (laughter) So, Cambodia, Malaysia,
Philippines, China, all of them
have come together to say, it is time for America’s trash
to go home. In other words:
send it back. Send it back. So, now, the trash is headed
back here to the U.S. And you might be saying,
“Well, fine, Trevor, We’ll just have
to recycle it ourselves.” Well, unfortunately,
it’s not that easy. TV REPORTER:
So what happens now to the plastic we used
to ship to China? Not much. A lot of it’s just piling up
here in the states. A lot of plastic comes
to recyclers like Bagaria all mixed together, impossible to separate
cost-effectively. Cities across the country
are now reexamining whether their recycling programs
are going to waste. TV REPORTER: Is it better
for people to recycle wrong or not at all? It’s better for people
not to recycle at all. It sounds crazy, but you have
to put it in context. Okay, when it comes
to, like, tin cans, like all of that stuff,
you can still recycle it. But when it comes to plastic,
incorrect recycling is worse than no recycling
at all. And even though you might think,
“No, I recycle correctly,” that chances are
that you’re not. Like, we all think
we’re recycling when we put a plastic bottle in
the little blue plastic bin. But what we’re actually
supposed to be doing is taking the lid off
the bottle, and then you’re supposed to take
that little ring off that’s under the lid
of every single bottle. Yeah. Yeah.
Oh, and if you get takeout, you can’t just throw that
in the bin and call it a day, even just rinsing it off
isn’t good enough. You’re supposed to wash that
thing, like, make it clean, like, cleaner than Mike Pence’s
browser history. Just everything. Yeah, his shit is–
Are you kidding? He’s like,
“I won’t even type ‘Google,’ ’cause it sounds like
a sex thing.” (laughter) And now– I know,
when I say these things, you might be thinking,
“Dude, I love this planet, but those plastic rings,
that’s too much.” Well, then there’s one
other thing we could be doing, and that is using less plastic, which I know is hard, because
we’ve all gotten used to it. Like, I’m obsessed with it,
we all use it, it’s convenient. But we’re gonna need to try. I’ve actually thought
of a few solutions for all of us, you know. Yeah, no. Instead
of plastic plates, I was thinking
we can just use our iPads. Okay? Think about it. It’s flat, it’s big,
and as an added bonus, when you watch Netflix
during dinner, you don’t even
have to look up, yeah. You can just be like,
“Oh, no. They killed Eleven. “Ah! Oh, no,
that’s-that’s just Bolognese. Mmm. Oh, yeah, she’s fine.” Working it for everything. Yeah. As for all those
delivery containers that you get
from, like, Postmates, now, that’s something
you don’t need. Just have the delivery guy
put all your food in his mouth, and then he feeds it to you
like a baby bird when he arrives. You’ll be helping the planet, and you’ll make
a really close friend. Yeah. So, the next time, the next time you plan on
tossing out a piece of plastic that you used for, like,
a total of three seconds, just remember
that pretty soon that plastic may be headed back your way. So if you don’t know,
now you know.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 100 comments

  1. Most of those trash are non recyclable… Just horrible shit…
    Man it contaminated OUR environment that might take centuries to heal up.

  2. Again your not getting the complete truth.. out of 100% we send to be recycled only 9% gets recycled.. and most of that 9% is metal recycle.. it’s all a waste of you time.. it’s best to make all items we can into compostable material that will designate quickly with no contamination

  3. LOL, we don't HAVE to send it to China. They wanted it because they couldn't get enough raw materials. Now they don't. It isn't a problem.

  4. Should see how fanatical the Germans are about recycling. It's incredible and very admirable. But Muricans will never do that. Just plain lazy.

  5. Any plastic package, including plastic bottles, could be made from Industrial Hemp. Discarded packaging & bottles made from hemp breaks down into soil in just a few weeks. Big Oil Corporations are the major producers of plastic. Any questions?

  6. Wonder if the change of mind from China comes from the trade war.
    Also, I wonder if we had the scene problems before single stream recycling.
    If sorting recycling is the job no one wants, where are the robots to do it for us so that we can get $1000 a month?

  7. Or you can recycle it yourself… properly… I know me or anybody in country are the last people who should be talking but recycling is not just about putting the plastic in a blue bin and putting the glass in a pink bin or whatever… Most of those things are reusable, especially plastic and glass. You don't need to buy bottled water when you can bottle the water yourself from the tap or fridge. Plastic containers can be used as tapperware or as pots for plants or even money boxes (if people still use money boxes). Even leaves and weeds can be recycled… instead of using that blower to blow them out of your yard, or throwing away the weeds after you've picked them up, you can pick them up and leave them in a big container or compartment or whatever outside for a number of months or days or whatever. My dad used to do that, but he put them in an old giant plant pot that was hidden in the back of our garden. When it got full my mom would use them as compost for the flowers and the trees, the same way that people use cow manure for other crops. Recycling is all about the mindset, you just have to be more open-minded and creative than just throwing something in a purple bin. I'm not judging anybody by the way, I know I don't recycle either but I'm just saying my opinion. Recycling is not as impossible or difficult as you think it is… You just need to participate more.

  8. FWIW, Hasbro is looking to remove ALL plastic from packaging in the near future. I literally have no idea how that's going to work, like, how do you make everything in their packages visible AND tamper-proof without a clear wall? This is the end of "Mint on sealed card" action figures as we know it!

  9. As Someone from Pakistan that is hyper conscious of environmental changes, it sometimes becomes hard when you see everyone around you using Plastic because it's easy. However, they won't listen to you because they are all happy in their damaged bubbles

  10. not using plastic is easier said than done when the actual perpetrators are the conglomerates who keep pumping out everything packaged in 3 layers of plastic. a single person can't do jack shit

  11. Plastic is hard to recycle efficiently. The Nordic countries are among the world leaders in recycling, and still they mostly just recycle plastic bottles, with all the other plastic going into the incinerator.

  12. He's telling us how to recycle bottles incorrectly. Recycling technology has developed more than old school rules — now it will say on items to keep the cap on and recycle, all after cleaning. Keeping the cap on, in communities with advanced recycling systems, reduces trash that would fall out when your curb side pickup picks up. However, you have to check your area/zip code's own recycling codes to know what your community accepts and doesn't accept.

  13. The ultimate side effect of capitalism… rampart garbage. Sadly, all of this waste will go to an economically impoverished country.

  14. The water was tested at my place of work. It has high levels of lead.
    I take a plastic gallon jug every week I refill with water from the filtered spout in my home. My coworkers bring numerous bottles a day.
    I sent out an email telling them I would buy them all a gallon jug so they can do the same. Out of 19 women, 2 took me up on it and only one still does. "I don't have time for that." It is ironic that the woman who doesn't have kids cares more about the future then 18 women with kids.

  15. Its true about people just throwing everything in the recycling bin, many times a work I have to often go back and take it out or the recycling center gives me a nasty call, but it’s easy to call the waste management to take it away instead or trying to segregate. People always give me dirty looks when I make them jump in the bin to retrieve the waste cause they think it’s dirty, but it’s not what’s dirty is the food waste they trying to throw in there.

  16. Just goes to show you how much of a scam a lot of recycling is. For all that fuel and other resources spent into shipping that excess recycling material to countries around the world they could have just dumped it all in U.S. landfills while leaving a much smaller carbon footprint.

  17. I'm a US citizen living in Bali, Indonesia on a work visa.. Although the air is riddled with pollution, the plastic use is somewhere around 10% of what we use in the states per person. Other areas should take a look at how it's done here.

  18. They should teach ppl in schools to know how to do it right and kinda force them to do it and maybe make a law that says it should be illegal to recycle wrong, i don't know but they should put more effort into this subject and control ppl more i guess.

  19. We should follow the German lead of 25+ years ago. Basically, by law, a firm must pay for cleaning up after the product the firm produces is used. For example, Mercedes cars are 100 recyclable except for maybe the catalytic converter. Everyone brings their own bags or containers to all stores to avoid paying about $.15 – $.20 per plastic bag if the store provides one. Beer bottles are recycled, washed and refilled. Garbage cans are minuscule by American standards and encourage using garbage cans for wasted foodstuffs, not packaging. McDonalds thrives in that environment, but generally avoids providing packaging beyond the paper surrounding a sandwich. You get the idea …

  20. I don't even use those recyclable water-bottles.
    I have a reusable one that I just fill up with water from the tap at home (luckily, I don't live in Flint, Michigan).
    I just clip I on my belt when I go walking/hiking, or throw it in my purse when I go to the movies or the pool.
    It helps save the planet, AND my wallet.
    Plus it's made with BPA-free material (unlike most disposable water bottles) , so I don't have to worry as much about it giving me cancer.

  21. Now Americans can fucking drown in the trash they produce.
    And it's not only Chi-y-na, (like Donald Dump says),other countries that used to take America's trash,now they don't want that shit anymore.
    This is gonna be fun to watch.

  22. Or we can just decrease the need of plastic goods by reducing the demand; ie stop producing more human beings. 8 billion people in this world. I think we're far off from being extinction. We can afford to skip a generation or two.

  23. Reminds me of when my family went to Japan… It wasn't until the last hour, when I saw how a local ripped off the label of his bottle, before putting it in the plastic bottle bin, that I understood how wrong I had been about recycling… Sorry to whoever had to catch the bottles, we thought we recycled correctly, from the recycling conveyor belt… Not used to that level of recycling awareness.

  24. drink from the tap you pussies, pussies and their bottled water or starbucks bullshit, make your own coffee without pods, buy a stainless steel yeti and straw and water filter and stop being a wasteful hypocrite

  25. He should have mentioned the huge floating island of plastic in the Pacific ocean. AKA "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." It's somewhere between the size of Texas and the size of Russia!

  26. nonsense and anti-american lies from the imported person of color. comedy central pressured to find african american replacement for jon stewart goes to south africa because they hate american blacks. truth? china is the leading polluter of oceans with plastics and other by-products of mass production of goods americans must have cheap.
    stop buying chinese made products.

  27. not all plastic bags has information how to recycle, so I was just putting them in the plastics, recently find out I was doing it so wrong. I feel so bad, I wish they print for every little or big container how to recycle them.

  28. bruh why cant we just burn the unusable trash? from what I heard there's bad trash, and then there's good trash. so why not just burn the bad ones

  29. Straws, bags, and bottles could be made from biodegradable materials made from bamboo, hemp, seaweed, sugar cane cellulose, etc. It's just that the companies who patented the different plastics PROFIT from selling those different plastics! It's all about PATENTED products!

  30. It will take those rich companies one day to find a solution if plastic is banned completly…they can afford to loose business…money motivates..

  31. Trevor, Malaysia recently had a change of government, a cleaner govt, with a well educated Minister of Science, Technology & Environment. She sent those trash back to America, Australia, etc.
    BTW, America preaches go green and clean environment but its trash disposal education is one of the worst I have encountered: milk bottles (esply milk bottles), glass, paper by products and organic refuse all go into one bag and ready for collection by the trash truck. Recycle bins need to be purchased by households, so most don't bother and therefore hardly any trash separation is done by American people.
    We should look up to Switzerland and Japan for recycling efforts. I know you are now American but so are my children. Being the richest nation in the world, you would think America should educate its people and set a good example.

  32. Western countries need to invite Japan to councel us on how to change our infrastructure to handle the amount of garbage we all make on a daily basis.

  33. 10 years and 5 months ago there was a Futurama episode about a giant ball of garbage returning to earth to destroy the "New New York" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Big_Piece_of_Garbage I suppose humanity is just a joke.

  34. So will all the companies exporting products made of plastic etc., be forced to atleast take back all the junk that their stuff is made of be forced to take it back….Like made in China, India Pakistan, etc. be willing to take it back… The complete packet of whatever is made in China be sent back….The made of plastic toys, batteries, everything is packed in somethimg waste!…!

  35. I don't remember what year that was, but many years ago (maybe 2008?) China began to charge for plastic bags, not too much, 0.5 yuan (right now 7.1 yuan =1 usd) for a mid-size plastic bag. It's not expensive but this policy encourages people to reuse plastic bags (after all you are saving your own money). This is a nation-wide policy. Last Christmas I visited my friends in Boston and in a CVS I saw that Boston is about to charge on plastic bags.

    Guess what's my reaction?


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