JENJAROM: From grubby packaging engulfing small Southeast Asian communities to waste piling up in plants from the US to Australia, China's ban on accepting the world's used plastic has plunged global recycling into turmoil.
For many years, China received the bulk of scrap plastic from around the world, processing much of it into a higher quality material that could be used by manufacturers, report agencies.But at the start of 2018, it closed its doors to almost all foreign plastic waste, as well as many other recyclables, in a push to protect the local environment and air quality, leaving developed nations struggling to find places to send their waste.
"It was like an earthquake," Arnaud Brunet, director general of Brussels-based industry group The Bureau of International Recycling, told AFP.
"China was the biggest market for recyclables. It created a major shock in the global market."
Instead, plastic is being redirected in huge quantities to Southeast Asia, where Chinese recyclers have shifted en masse.
With a large Chinese-speaking minority, Malaysia was a top choice for Chinese recyclers looking to relocate, and official data showed plastic imports tripled from 2016 levels to 870,000 tonnes last year.
In the small town of Jenjarom, not far from Kuala Lumpur, plastic processing plants suddenly appeared in large numbers, pumping out noxious fumes day and night.