Recycling Crisis – Global Issue

The world´s largest consumer of discarded plastics, China passed legislation banning almost all waste imports. In 2017 many western countries sent most of their plastic waste to China and Hong Kong. Now, that there is no option to do so, more countries and municipalities are burning or landfilling plastic and creating a serious global warming risk. Finding a solution to place or dispose tons of waste will require both diplomatic and legal action as well as efforts to prevent the untenable increase in plastic waste generation. (Collins 2019). It is now really important to start thinking about sustainable recycling methods locally. It is no longer possible to take waste elsewhere for others to take care of.


Suggested Solutions

One of the solutions being put forward in this recycling crisis is to increase the quality of recycling to meet China’s new contamination limits, thus enabling exports to re-open. This requires for government investment into secondary processing plants.

The waste management sector is also seeking investment to develop home-grown recycling facilities and markets. Others are pushing for companies to be held responsible for the end of life of their products, by ensuring their packaging is recyclable or returnable, as is the case in Germany.
If any of these strategies are successful, it could result in one of two outcomes for cleaning companies:

  1. It could increase the need for skilled and innovative on-site recycling audits and processing, to remove the types of recyclable material with insufficient markets and all other contamination, or
  2. It may spell the end of source separation and recycling bins as we know it, with all waste being sent to off-site processing plants where separation can be fully controlled. (Gardner 2019).

Watch this video about The Global Waste Problem (2.10.2018)

Recycling Ways

  1. Circular design: This means for example, designing more durable goods with parts that come apart to be easily replaced and/or recycled.
  2. Product as a service or subscription: The company can collect, recycle and reuse the materials. Also called the “sharing economy”, this approach allows the owner of equipment or a vehicle to control and extend its life, through maintenance and repair.
  3. Repurposing: Also called “up-cycling”, as the name suggests, it is the opposite of down-recycling by finding ways to turn used materials and product parts into higher value goods or materials. Repurposing is an exciting business opportunity because it requires the product manufacturer or user to collaborate directly with another business or organisation that values what you throw away – keeping the materials in the system and out of landfill.
  4. Resource recovery: This includes traditional recycling and converting waste materials into renewable energy. This usually represents the least efficient, sustainable and creative option. (Gardner 2019).


Recycling in Finland

Most housing companies provide the following sorting containers: biowaste, paper, carton, glass, metal, plastic and mixed waste. Other collection points are hazardous waste, batteries and electrical equipment. Here are some tips how you can reduce the amount of waste:

  • Freeze excess food and store food correctly.
  • Drink tap water, it is good and safe in Finland.
  • Only buy items that you really need.
  • Buy durable items.
  • Buy and sell used goods.
  • Take good care of your goods and store them correctly.

(Infofinland 2019).

Sustainable choices

Only by reducing waste through reuse and investing in recycling facilities locally, a sustainable solution to the world’s broken recycling system is possible to achieve. Sending more waste to landfill would be a tragedy. China’s crackdown on imported waste has highlighted the unsustainable nature of this trade. The world must turn this into an opportunity for change. (Financial Times 2019).

It is frustrating not to be able to heal the world and affect global and local decisions. However, we can all make a change by doing ecological choices in our daily lives and recycle. It is also important to teach our children to be environmentally aware.


See this: The World’s Trash Problem Just Got More Alarming (15.7.2019)


Collins, C. 2019. The Global Environmental Recycling Crisis: What Options Exist for Plastic Waste? Article from Climate Institute. Accessed 3 June 2020. 

Financial Times. 2019. Global Recycling Crisis Should Be a Wake-up Call. Accessed 3 June 2020.

Gardner, B. 2019. The Recycling Crisis and the Circle Economy in 2019. Article from Inclean magazine. Accessed 3 June 2020.

Infofinland. 2019. Waste and Recycling. Accessed 3 June 2020.

Suurin osa Showcasen blogeista on toteutettu osana Laurean opintojaksoja. Koko koulutustarjontaamme voi tutustua nettisivuillamme. Tarjoamme kymmenien tutkintoon johtavien koulutuksien lisäksi myös paljon täydennys- ja erikoistumiskoulutuksia sekä yksittäisiä opintojaksoja avoimen AMK:n kautta!

4 thoughts on “Recycling Crisis – Global Issue”

  1. Hi, Riitta!
    Recycling has been a problem for many years. Fortunately this issue has been addressed more and more. It’s important that in daycare they teach children about recycling, because they get knowledge early on.
    We can start by making change in our own lifestyle by not wasting food, recycling etc. This way you can inspire someone close to you and they someone else and so on. Like it has been said for many years, change starts with us.


    1. Riitta Järnström

      Thanks Nimco!

      It is true that change starts with everyone themselves and everyone is responsible for this planet.


  2. Johanna Ek

    thank you for your blog. It was sad to read that China banned waste importing as it is the worlds most largest country to export goods. I hope this will set countries to develop and manufacture their recycled products in their home countries. Then again I’m happy that in Finland we are in my opinion quite ahead with recycling. Many brands now sell items made of recycled materials and young people use second hand stores and market places to find clothes and furniture. Of course there are differences in consumption varying from the city you live in but here in Finland I think we are going in a good direction.

    1. Riitta Järnström

      Thanks Johanna!

      In my opinion, recycling issues in Finland are on a fairly good model too. Many children and young people are very skilled in recycling matters.


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