Visual Mapping 

Post-China Waste Import Ban

This map shows the plastic recycling industry's wordwise relationship and issues brought by plastic pollutions in Eastern Asia, where the main plastic waste is importing countries reside. It is also addressing the abrupt change happening in 2018 after China had been forced to bring up the plastic waste import standard. This map also visualizes the amount and position of plastic waste zone created by ocean currents. By drawing the central plastic waste export and import countries, the geographical and economic contrasts will immediately be revealed: showing the dilemma on how we can deal with the plastic waste.

Draft by Sep 20th


Historically, to implement power shortage, China has a tradition to import trash from other countries as the fuel(through the burning process) to support fire power stations.
China has taken over 56% of the world's waste recycling as the world's biggest recycle engine by 2017. However, since July 2017, the Chinese government suddenly announced its new waste import policy:

“By the end of 2017, China will forbid the import of 4 classes, 24 kinds of solid wastes, including plastics waste from living sources, vanadium slag, unsorted waste paper, and waste textile materials, etc. The new policy was implemented on 1 January 2018, and banned the imports of those wastes.”(Miles, 2017)

There were lots of blames and questions right after the new law was announced. The main concern is since that the

law mainly bans plastic wastes, after this waste ban, the US and European countries will have to redesign the plastic producing standard to fit in China’s new standard, otherwise, they need to shift the main waste export destination to Southeast Asian, including Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. However, since traditionally China has taken over half of the recycling industry, it is really hard to find an alternative solution in such a short time. Some of the rubbish storage spaces in these countries will be filled very soon if they could not find a better choice.

Another concern is that this uniform policy will force contamination from China to South-eastern Asia, where pollution of waste is already causing an environmental crisis.
However, people are showing indifference to this grey industry of how much trash and daily wastes. Especially, we have never realized how bad our recycling habits are in the past several years.

Marxism's view that people under globalization are no longer ‘natural humankind’ but ‘mechanized-hum

an’ that involve a human production history or big industry. In this case, our interaction with the rubbish industry would simply be producing ‘every-day wastes’. Correspondingly, the plastic wastes we produced will finally break down to so-called Particulate Matters through the way people deal with the trash by burning or burying them. These micro materials finally get into the atmosphere and oceans, and finally will get back into our body.

Thus for this map, alongside the illustration of these huge industrial changes, it is eager to show us more of how we should treat our everyday relationship with trash and nature. Also to arouse our environment-saving awareness against the devastating global environments.

Description and Design Process

This visual map will show different stages of the researching process:

  1. Plastics Recycling Grades( chart or infographics)
  • Different classes of plastics
  • China’s new law on plastic wastes.
  • How do people deal with/recycle plastic wastes?

  1. Worldwide rubbish recycling chain(Pre 2018 vs Post 2018). Showing how garbage produced by a single person is directed to a third-world country. (main visual map with geo locations)

  • This visual map will analyze how this ‘underlying chain‘ of global waste recycling is functioning, from how a produced trash will travel globally and finally be broken down and back to us.
  • Comparing the main export destinations before and after 2018

  1. Enormous Profit of Waste Import&Export VS a Recycling Workers Wage(abstract map, ‘relational maps’, which will show the collisions and relations of different powers and countries)

  • Showing the living conditions of third world waste recycling workers/ villages and diseases related to residents in these polluted sorting centers
  • Mainland China’s biggest recycling centers before 2018 and its condition
  • Trash trading economic growth in the past years

  1. Waste pollution issues and solutions.

  • Future promotions on the plastics industry
  • New rules and opportunity

Expected Outcomes

  1. One visual map of the global waste industry(geo-mapping and data visualization)
  2. Showing the conflicts/competitions/contradictions between upstream and downstream countries within the industrial chain(relation mapping)
  3. Illustrate listed actions has been taken and future solutions

Research & Reference

The research process includes three parts.
  1. The first part will search for the details of this trash import ban policy.

From WTO documents and China briefing

  1. The second part is to find out the related reports and reviews after this new policy was proposed and to conclude its effect on the world.

Corresponding to the ‘Reports’ link part, the researches cover different perspectives from China, the US, EU, and other southern countries.

These multiple perspectives will also be drawn into the visual maps.

  1. The third part is to find data as references to the infographics of this map.

Revealing data on the shifting trash import destinations and changes on these trashes has been relocated to different countries.


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