China imports more U.S. trash than agricultural commodities, but that could soon change. China earlier this year filed a notice with the World Trade Organization about its plans to limit the entry of “foreign waste.”
The Wall Street Journal reports this week that under the new rules, China by year’s end would ban imports of used plastics and require paper-scrap imports to meet a strict 0.3 percent standard for “carried waste”—the staples, glue, sticky residue and smelly garbage bits that are nearly impossible to eliminate.
In 2016, nearly a quarter of America’s biggest exporters by volume were recyclers of paper, plastic or metals, at 11.23 million metric tons. Those exports were valued at $5.2 billion. Meanwhile, U.S. exports of agricultural products to China were more valuable, at $21 billion, but far less in volume. Soybean exports in 2016 to China were worth $14 billion, while corn was worth $1 billion, and pork products worth $715 million.