How China Broke the World's Recycling

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Writing by Sam Denby
Research by Sam Denby and Tristan Purdy
Editing by Alexander Williard
Animation by Josh Sherrington
Sound by Graham Haerther
Thumbnail by Simon Buckmaster

Select footage courtesy the AP Archive


Musicbed SyncID:


  1. Captain Cool

    Captain Cool11 soat oldin

    ok what China had done now? 😐 can US start a war because of china's recycling problem? I know fighting for human rights doesn't work,obviously we know what happened in the white house,freedom? That don't work Neither~how about Fighting for humility? 🤔

  2. The Truth

    The Truth15 soat oldin

    Gee someone doesn’t want someone else’s garbage. Who would have thought

  3. Matthew Goodman

    Matthew GoodmanKun oldin

    That’s why metal recycling won’t be going away soon at all. Very profitable with higher value metals

  4. Steve Smith

    Steve SmithKun oldin

    The chivalrous index thankfully box because peru mechanistically float excluding a grumpy duckling. lean, heady decision

  5. Robert Pirlot

    Robert PirlotKun oldin

    This has nothing to do with recycling or environmental effects. China, Russia and America are in a Cold War and this is a way to Screw America. China is willing and does kill millions of their own people. China's own economy is a bubble of corruption and they are proud of it but if you are part of that corruption you also live in fear because if they are done with you, you go to prison or Never to be seen again. Worse China has Labor Camps. Huge groups of slave labor because of their religious beliefs that will do the dirty work of China. All those Solar panels and Trees grown in China were done by slave labor but they can tell the world how wonderful they are to the environment and tell you the biggest BS story on how it was done.

  6. Marissa Dower-morgan

    Marissa Dower-morganKun oldin

    Long ago in the eighties and seventies , they had cardboard /waxed containers for most dairy products . Bring them Back! it's just that easy . There is no need for Plastic Egg containers , Paper is the most efficient and recyclable. So what's the problem? Glass is also the best container , it's totally recyclable . Waxed paper can make bags for chips, and many other things . Plastic should be only used if it is recyclable. We have Industrial package designers who solve these issues . Employ them .There is an answer ,

  7. Christoph Unger

    Christoph UngerKun oldin

    Great documentary! I just hope the world politicians realise that and fix the incentives!

  8. User

    UserKun oldin

    So capitalism is why we don't recycle plastic... Great.

  9. h g

    h g2 kun oldin

    Missing peice, when it was no longer profitable they dump it in the ocean to save gas and take the money

  10. James Kelly

    James Kelly2 kun oldin

    Great articles mate

  11. D.E.B. B

    D.E.B. B3 kun oldin

    We used to have this great recycling program; DEPOSIT BOTTLES. But because plastics were cheaper and lighter to ship, corporations stopped taking back their garbage, and just had legislation allowing it all to be dumped it into landfills.

  12. El Guapo

    El Guapo3 kun oldin

    And now empty shipping containers are piling up in LA because there's nothing to put in them to ship back, causing massive shipping stoppages.

  13. JuTau

    JuTau3 kun oldin

    Government needs to stop subsidizing Oil then the prices will be real.

  14. Tim Salzmann

    Tim Salzmann3 kun oldin

    15:20. Looks like the Springfield tyre fire is still burning...

  15. Ilani Matthius

    Ilani Matthius3 kun oldin

    The changeable footnote electrophoretically sip because peony preferably nod absent a cut network. rustic, temporary babies

  16. Some Random Knuckles In A Tank

    Some Random Knuckles In A Tank3 kun oldin

    tHiS vIdEo Is MaDe PoSsIbLe By Mr FuCkFaCe

  17. mike pepper

    mike pepper3 kun oldin

    It's far from just a US issue.. countries from all over the world participed in shipping China's plastic packaging back to them. Tarriffs on items containing non recycled plastic may be a good solution to the problem.

  18. Paul Mahler

    Paul Mahler3 kun oldin

    The enchanted gazelle developmentally explain because payment osmotically delight afore a drab robin. daffy, dark decimal

  19. Julian Cedrik

    Julian Cedrik3 kun oldin

    profit is the real problem of this world..

  20. Bobylein

    Bobylein3 kun oldin

    It's not an "incinerator", it's a thermal recycling plant!

  21. David Tapp

    David Tapp3 kun oldin

    China did nothing to break the world's recycling. All it did was tell the rest of the world to recycle their own messes in their own countries. Which sounds completely logical and rational to me.

  22. Gandy dancer

    Gandy dancer4 kun oldin

    "It's the plastics companies fault!" No, it was "environmentalist" eyewash.

  23. Dr. J. LaTour High Priest DOD

    Dr. J. LaTour High Priest DOD4 kun oldin

    By manufacturing garbage 🗑

  24. Kraziken0

    Kraziken04 kun oldin

    Our recycling process should have never involved expending fuel and shipping it to another country. Ridiculous.

  25. mark pope

    mark pope4 kun oldin

    Why is nobody talking about banning cheap plastic items from China that don’t last. they break and they get thrown away into our landfills. why are we not banning the importation of that?

  26. mark pope

    mark pope4 kun oldin

    So the solution of the leftists in Berkeley is the ban plastic straws, LOL

  27. ****

    ****4 kun oldin

    Wait, the information is awesome, but the advertisement spoof attached to the end? Kinda disappointing.

  28. Blackened Merlin

    Blackened Merlin4 kun oldin

    Something almost always overlooked... landfilling plastics, is carbon sequestration, in a way that's stable for thousands of years.

  29. Dwayne Beasley

    Dwayne Beasley4 kun oldin

    The cute way scientifically stain because lyre radiologically practise amid a slippery whorl. typical, helpful tailor

  30. Herioz

    Herioz4 kun oldin

    So again late nineties decision of executives screw the world ecology.

  31. Jagzilla

    Jagzilla5 kun oldin

    Recycling..LOL! They broke the whole world...

  32. Puzekat Meow

    Puzekat Meow5 kun oldin

    Recycling plastic needs to be a non-profitable company. Is there a break even point in recyclables? I’d gladly run a company, get a modest salary and have no profit every year and the government should loan me money.

  33. Genius Gamer

    Genius Gamer5 kun oldin

    The recycling crisis and constant deluge of plastic problems is cool and all but what happened at 16:53?

  34. Markg330

    Markg3305 kun oldin

    Next idea.... shoot it into space

  35. Nate B

    Nate B5 kun oldin

    Pyrolysis plants can turn mixed plastics into fuel, giving them a positive value (removing energy to produce from the equation, for now). Hopefully at some point, waste plastic will be sold instead of paid to take. Not there yet but getting closer

  36. Jeffrey Johnson

    Jeffrey Johnson5 kun oldin

    Seems like the solution has to be something along the lines of taxing virgin plastics to make them more expensive, and subsidizing recycled plastics to make them cheaper (probably with the revenue from virgin plastic taxes). That is, force the plastics manufacturers to pay for the externalities of their industry.


    CHEN DAVID5 kun oldin

    Wendover is a joke. The title should be "How the world's recycling system is broke"

  38. rommelfcc

    rommelfcc5 kun oldin

    Putting a tax or tariff on plastic production and Imports. Then using that money for higher turnover of recycling. We need to know the real cost, the same should be done for the meat and dairy industries, to cover the coat of the diseases they create! And to inform the consumer! Then there shouldn't be a need for disease induced medical insurance. Know the real cost and informative decisions on what should be open Facts.

  39. WOLFROY47

    WOLFROY475 kun oldin

    how do you solve the problem ? easy, stop producing non recyclable plastic. better still, go back to using glass. new isn't always better because of the hidden long term cost to everyone, even those that have never used the dam stuff, produced, be people, that were looking for a cheap way, to get rid of their unwanted waste products, and pass the cost onto everyone else just not them. question, where and who, was supposed to be looking out, for our, the majority's, best interests ? and how much were they bribed, to turn a blind eye ?

  40. Iono Sama

    Iono Sama6 kun oldin

    The title likely will lead someone to a somewhat different conclusion when they just read it without actually going through the video... which is... unfortunate because the video actually went through a much more objective and clear problem posed by the system. But that's not what ppl are going to assume reading the title, even though in a sense it was correct.

  41. Shaun Coleman

    Shaun Coleman6 kun oldin

    You really should not be shipping your garbage over seas. Actually I think that no municipality should be allowed to send it's garbage outside of its boundaries. If cities had to deal with their own garbage they may actually find better ways to deal with it.

  42. Laurence Kueffer

    Laurence Kueffer6 kun oldin

    The solution requires creativity and imagination: The government needs to step in, and subsidize recycling industrial expenses, to make the whole system profitable. This can be accomplished, more easily, by directly taxing plastic products (with a retail tax), probably just a few cents per product is enough. The government being any world government, but especially the governments in North America.

  43. Dennis Cambly

    Dennis Cambly6 kun oldin

    China dropped all plastic imports from the US and it's puppets in retaliation to Trump's sanctions on China. You could have found that information has you looked a little further than the US narrative. Russia dropped imports of nuclear waste from the US at the same time due to the same reason. The landfills are overflowing with our own garage because a demcracy must have a profit. Though very few government accounts show where the deposit fee dollars go.

  44. Soulife

    Soulife6 kun oldin

    They reject the world's recycling & internet and then give the world Corona and falling rocket hazards. They give money to foreign interest groups & government initiatives and then take countries, seas, and people's rights away. Why China, why? Blink twice if Winnie the Pooh is threatening you.

  45. 1969rett

    1969rett6 kun oldin

    Coming right down to it, is the millionaires past the hot potato. Millionaires should be made to pay taxes.

  46. Greg Summerson

    Greg Summerson6 kun oldin

    So you used COVID to shut the system down

  47. Greg Summerson

    Greg Summerson6 kun oldin

    I don’t see anyone running to join the amish

  48. U HU

    U HU6 kun oldin

    This video, especially its title, is so emblematic of how the West is dealing with China coming to its own.

  49. alexisd3000

    alexisd30006 kun oldin

    unless governments restrict the production of new plastics, recycling won't be useful at all... we absolutely need to develop ways to reuse this material, paving roads with plastic may be a good idea, building houses perhaps? if the human race survives long enough, we might see our reckless use of all petroleum products as laughable... but for now, and the more immediate future, we just have to suffer the consequences.

  50. Björn Westman

    Björn Westman6 kun oldin

    So where is most of this unprofitable plastic produced in the first place? It would not surprise me if the answer to this question is China….

  51. Russell Sama

    Russell Sama7 kun oldin

    Stop using one off contianers. And each country should recycle there own waste.

  52. Carl Feniak

    Carl Feniak7 kun oldin

    Great video! Except the end where he glazed over possible solutions which might become economic and just dismissed them as uneconomic now (like the bacteria that can breakdown unsorted plastic back to its raw constituents, that’s awesome).

  53. Bryan

    Bryan7 kun oldin

    Some people are so desperate to shit on the USA that they feel the need to call this a US only problem. As if no one has access to google to see that the UK and Western Europe had issues with this too. People love to pretend out loud.

  54. Michael Monro

    Michael Monro7 kun oldin

    So basically, China dumps the garbage into the Pacific instead of recycling it... That is where the Pacific garbage patch came from.... It all makes sense now.

  55. Luke Williams

    Luke Williams7 kun oldin

    And here I was all this time thinking recycling happened out of the goodness of the industry’s heart, not only when it’s economically viable. Heck people didn’t donate to Team Trees cause it was profitable, they did it cause it’s the right thing to do. Is- is that too hard of a concept for corporations to grasp?

  56. Den Of Wolves

    Den Of Wolves5 kun oldin

    Money money money It's all they care about

  57. Ankita Mohapatra

    Ankita Mohapatra8 kun oldin

    virgin tax!

  58. Jerid

    Jerid8 kun oldin

    Don't worry guys there is still Africa or South East Asia to dump all our trash so we can live on our pedestal a bit longer.

  59. Catro Jana

    Catro Jana8 kun oldin

    USA is really trashy...🚮

  60. scdalak

    scdalak8 kun oldin

    Worst narration voice ever.

  61. Snake Was Right

    Snake Was Right8 kun oldin

    Youd think actual plastic would be a better source of plastic than cracking the earth open and sucking up and piping around oil that needs to be refined and shipped. Seems like it'd be just as easy to refine plastics. But hey, what do I know?

  62. Rob

    Rob8 kun oldin

    How money is the root of most of our problems....

  63. JuggaloSupreme

    JuggaloSupreme8 kun oldin

    China didn't break ANYTHING...they just got sick of being the world's dumping ground! WHOLE MOVIE IN 15 SECONDS...YOU'RE WELCOME!!

  64. Phyllis Long

    Phyllis Long8 kun oldin

    The wry feet lately reflect because dash desirably wail apud a colorful shirt. few fierce, general gentle distribution

  65. Random Schmid

    Random Schmid8 kun oldin

    China broke it? The video literally says China fixed it for a short amount of time

  66. maraika danisch

    maraika danisch8 kun oldin

    How about we stop using plastics... I know, a major change for people, but we need to be responsible.

  67. N Z

    N Z8 kun oldin

    western sent trash to China and said this is the rule

  68. jan ingram

    jan ingram8 kun oldin

    radical idea turn the clock back go back to reuseable glass bottles & canvas bags just like granny did

  69. David Bergner

    David Bergner8 kun oldin

    Haha, what the hell is this propaganda. The world isn't the US, and the solution isn't that third world contries takes on the same task as China did; the solution is that "the world", i e USA in this case, get their shit together and process their own damn waste. Also a solution isnt only about consumer choosing recycled plastic. The most obvious one should be to replace plastics and fuck big OIL in the first place. Damn this is infuriating.

  70. Jasen Ericksen

    Jasen Ericksen8 kun oldin


  71. Jay Clarke

    Jay Clarke9 kun oldin

    Really do hate these propagandist titles.

  72. lindsay jones

    lindsay jones9 kun oldin

    Every state should have a company that melts all the plastic and coat chipboard that makes it waterproof.

  73. Tori Lyons

    Tori Lyons9 kun oldin

    Externalities, indeed. Dump yr plastics in the street, at the local park, hospital, anywhere highly visible. Do not participate in the lie called 'recycling'. We deserve to live with our shit, not pretend and live an illusion. Only then will a solution be found.

  74. Angel G

    Angel G9 kun oldin

    In the past the bottles were made of glass and could be re-filled.

  75. JamesAsp

    JamesAsp21 soat oldin

    @Angel G Haha. Well either we need to have so we can recycle or we can't. I doubt we can have both. I don't think it will be a big problem though, as we can recycle everything else already and it is still around.

  76. Angel G

    Angel G3 kun oldin

    @JamesAsp Imagine the genetic engineers make it able to survive in more common conditions so it can mutate - this could be the end of the world. Can you imagine if it eats the insulation of the electric cables in the cars, nuclear power-plants, airplanes, etc.

  77. JamesAsp

    JamesAsp5 kun oldin

    @Angel G The bacteria Ideonella Sakaiensis is a good start. All the best

  78. Angel G

    Angel G7 kun oldin

    @JamesAsp yes, my father stepped on one when I was little. But do you have solution ?

  79. JamesAsp

    JamesAsp7 kun oldin

    ...and found in nature and on beaches broken in parts so people without shoes and animals that never wear shoes got deep bleeding cuts. Never go back to glass. They were discarded for good reasons too.

  80. Patsy Haug

    Patsy Haug9 kun oldin

    The fabulous kidney internally bow because pendulum climatologically succeed an a crabby plane. selective, debonair test

  81. Sherwin G

    Sherwin G9 kun oldin

    Yes capitalism solves capitalism -america

  82. Charles White64

    Charles White649 kun oldin

    Polluting Irresponsible Overt Business Profit, Over Our Only Planets Sustainability of Us Humans and Everything Else Living' _ Via' Over The Right Responsible and Ethical Progression To Actually 'Solve' The Repeated Problem?, Is Pure Evil Psychosis That's Currently Worshipped as 'Normal' _ WTF? 🆘🌎🌏🌍🆘

  83. Cienne Bela

    Cienne Bela9 kun oldin

    Malaysia already stopped i heard

  84. Hoystein

    Hoystein9 kun oldin

    "Some are working to make an enzyme" We already have one, and it's one nature found and we stole from bacteria in japan, but it's for "high value" plastic bottles.

  85. JamesAsp

    JamesAsp7 kun oldin

    Yep. Still remember when I first read about it some years ago.

  86. Tom Whiteside

    Tom Whiteside10 kun oldin

    If plastic is made from oil, can it be made from vegetable oil? In other words, can it be made biodegradable?

  87. Tom Whiteside

    Tom Whiteside6 kun oldin

    @TheCarMan Yeah, we used paper grocery bags as trash can liners and to cover school books. Those were the days.

  88. TheCarMan

    TheCarMan6 kun oldin

    @Tom Whiteside I guess if it's going to be used within a certain amount of time. Bio products not only dissolve other bio products, they tend to break down. Sort of like having an expiration date. I do agree with you on those plastic grocery bags, regular paper bags worked quite well for many generations. They lasted long enough to be useful several times over and then decompose. And they could be made (at least in part) from recycled paper. These were a Win Win Win product, so I guess we had to get rid of them.

  89. Tom Whiteside

    Tom Whiteside8 kun oldin

    @TheCarMan But could it be made to work for fast food cups or straws, where it only has to hold up for an hour or so. Those two things along with grocery bags, are probably 70% or the trash I see along the roads. Not counting all the masks and gloves

  90. TheCarMan

    TheCarMan8 kun oldin

    Yes ... but like dissolves like, meaning you can't put bio products into bio produced containers. And almost all store bought bio products come in plastic containers.

  91. Mr. T.

    Mr. T.10 kun oldin

    We no longer need China. Time to nuke them. Use the country as a dumpster.

  92. Jeff Peate

    Jeff Peate10 kun oldin

    High temperature Incinerate it to make electricity and filter out toxic combustion products.

  93. TheCarMan

    TheCarMan8 kun oldin

    $$$$ The energy needed to do what you say would be greater than the energy you get from the process. You might as well just use that energy to make the electricity directly.

  94. Bush Man

    Bush Man10 kun oldin

    Sounds to me like you're trying to blame China for YOUR trash, such typical 🗑️🗑️ behavior from Americans. China doesn't want your trash...keep it

  95. George Cowie

    George Cowie10 kun oldin

    They just threw it in ocean

  96. Evil tux

    Evil tux10 kun oldin

    "The world's recycling" you mean the US's?

  97. timmy chang

    timmy chang10 kun oldin

    Y do u think we try to reduce plastic bags/styrofoam/

  98. annoyedok321

    annoyedok32110 kun oldin

    Electric cars, solar power, lots of things to make people feel less guilty while the consume. The US government could have been investing in public transportation and energy conservation.

  99. LeftEyeReport

    LeftEyeReport10 kun oldin


  100. LaGuerre19

    LaGuerre1910 kun oldin

    Regarding the ad at the end: I still have a HOTMAIL account and I will never get rid of it. I have other accounts but hey -- who do you know who still has a Hotmail account?

  101. Tsiney Kinori

    Tsiney Kinori10 kun oldin

    We the people have to pay for it one way or another.

  102. Truth Seeker

    Truth Seeker10 kun oldin

    The title should be “China.. the leader in dealing with western trash for decades”!

  103. William Schutter

    William Schutter10 kun oldin

    Your radically ideological assualt on the entire plastics industry is the real unsustainable intellectual garbage here.

  104. William Schutter

    William Schutter10 kun oldin

    Imagine. China gets decades more to pollute California's air with coal-fired generating plants but is allowed to refuse to do anything to help with recycling. It clearly pays to be a corrupt and unaccountable Socialist entity.

  105. William Schutter

    William Schutter10 kun oldin

    Just charge consumers at the point of sale for all recycling and replace much plastic with biodegradable marerials like hemp based alternatives. The markets will adjust quickly and efficiently without government interference which always creates new problems.

  106. Ankita Mohapatra

    Ankita Mohapatra8 kun oldin

    yes. just one note, since retailers need to price-compete to be profitable, they won't charge consumers at POS for all recycling while other retailers continue to charge the lower prices. Therefore the govt may need to interfere in the sense of mandates / externality taxes such that EVERY seller charges the same additional increment for plastic content.

  107. William Schutter

    William Schutter10 kun oldin

    The WTO was subverted by the Communist Chinese. What a surprise.

  108. Jon Tung

    Jon Tung10 kun oldin

    There is a way to solve this problem without nasty landfills and incineration if plastic has to be continued used. Elon or that blue whatever space company, when you fire a rocket into space pass our orbit, bring it with you then just let it float in space where it is vast and empty

  109. Jon Tung

    Jon Tung10 kun oldin

    Amazing how we can make rockets yet we can’t find a plastic substitute

  110. Ty N

    Ty N10 kun oldin

    WTF, are those 4 year old kids sorting through piles of ethernet cables?

  111. Gene Raza

    Gene Raza10 kun oldin

    The Fact is that China designed a system to recycle un-recyclable garbage. And unfortunately it does not appeal to those countries who rely on free garbage to reprocess it and make a ton of money, due to those countries not having that technology yet. Tough Luck! you should of been thinking about the environment not your pockets.

  112. b Low

    b Low11 kun oldin

    The title sh be how the US sent its trash and pollution to China.

  113. Βακουφτσής Ιωάννης Κυριάκος

    Βακουφτσής Ιωάννης Κυριάκος11 kun oldin

    The problem is the fact that everybody uses environmental concerns in order to achieve price manipulation

  114. george davidson

    george davidson11 kun oldin

    The answer to recycling is to incinerate and produce hydro