A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

And the message here is … what?

Written April 28th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

There’s something perplexing about this plastic wrapper, isn’t there? It contained a shopping bag, also made of plastic, and also China-made.

“Subscribe Now And Get 11 Issues for $12 Plus A Free Tote Bag.” That was the offer from Smithsonian Magazine. We’ve become so used to many things coming from China that if a free tote bag and its wrapping come from there too, nobody gives it a second thought.

But now? During this pandemic? And in big type, right on the front of the mailing wrapper? What are the makers of this bag trying to say? What’s the message we’re supposed to get?

“Look, weird new coronaviruses are not the only thing you get from us,” the mailing seems to say. “We also send you harmless stuff, like this plastic thingy. See?”

China adopted its “National Sword” policy in 2017, banning the import of almost all waste for recycling, including plastic. The new policy took effect in 2018. You may remember the problem this caused for Republic Services in the Albany area, and for other waste haulers providing curbside recycling services across the United States.

In principle, no one blames the Chinese government for not wanting to keep accepting much of the world’s trash. But what was our response to Beijing?

“OK, guys, if you will no longer take our plastic for recycling, which we understand, then of course we can no longer allow our corporations to import plastic stuff from China. Because we don’t know what to do with the trash.”

Did we say or do anything like that? No, we did not. Except for imposing tariffs in an overdue attempt to reform the China trade, we just kept buying and accepting the stuff they sent.

Even plastic tote bags that come as gifts. (hh)

15 responses to “And the message here is … what?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I can’t refute the validity of your arguments, so I’ll do what my leftist friends do – resort to ad hominem.

    You are a xenophobe and a racist. You clearly hate the Chinese.

    There…I feel so much better…and superior. My self esteem is overflowing.

    I could get used to being a leftist.

    • hj.anony1 says:

      So glad you have “friends”. You clearly hate. Not my problem or Hasso’s.
      Own it Shadle. LOL all night long.

  2. Jim Engel says:

    It would be great if they just took back that expanded foam packing that comes with everything they send us!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      You and others are looking for a scapegoat. You believe they are dictating what the product packaging will be? They’re just doing what the mfg. is telling them to do…

      • Jim Engel says:

        Ray…they ARE the manufacturer & package it from the source with that foam. And a scapegoat for what?

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          Yes, China is the manufacturer of the “packaging”, but the design of the packaging doesn’t come from China – it’s from the company who orders the product with their brand on it. Nothing requires a retailer to buy a product with that kind of packaging. Multiple companies have samples of a product on a shelf, in a display case, etc. – and then when you purchase it, you get the item in regular “cardboard” packagesbox.

          Many folks are scapegoating China for the problems we have created…

  3. Ean says:

    My understanding is not much of the plastic was ever recycled anyway. Recycling was mostly pushed by the petroleum industry to make their product appear less wasteful despite it being unrealistic and not economical to sort and clean then recycle plastic.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Here’s another excellent Frontline story: “Plastic Wars” from March of this year. Well worth watching. It’s a real eye-opener! Even some bits from Oregon…


    • HowlingCicada says:

      I’ve come to the sad realization that most recycling is probably greenwashing as you say. Well-run incineration might be a better alternative. Most of my fellow Americans seem to be either ignorant slobs about recycling (dirty pizza boxes, etc, hence the Chinese policy), or well-meaning people who put in a lot of effort to recycle tiny bits of stuff for little if any ultimate good (I’m sometimes guilty). It sure doesn’t help that the instructions from Republic Services are inadequate, self-contradictory, and written for idiots (Do you want frozen-food boxes and cereal boxes or not?).

      Or, to put it more bluntly, it may just be fraud.

  4. Rich Kellum says:

    We get packaging from China because we buy stuff from China that needs packaging………….
    Said another way, We used to have a paper mill here that made brown paper for cardboard, when you stopped buying stuff from here the country needed less cardboard from here.
    Cause and effect……….
    You want to know who is at fault????????? Look in the mirror and deal with it.

  5. HowlingCicada says:

    “””Except for imposing tariffs in an overdue attempt to reform the China trade, we just kept buying and accepting the stuff they sent.”””

    Except for imposing tariffs in an overdue attempt to reform the China trade — chaotically and self-destructively, not only on China but also our allies, choosing winners and losers — we just kept buying and accepting the stuff they sent.

    How did the party of Lincoln, Goldwater, and Reagan come to this?

  6. thomas cordier says:

    Several years ago stores that sold motor oil were required to accept used motor oil.
    legislative decision. Costco products , many from China, have extensive plastic packaging that Albany’s garbage collector will not take. I asked a technical expert at Republic to interview Costco mgt and ask them to stop selling products with non-recyclable packaging. They said they would never consider doing that. It was up to the consumer to do that. So now Republic get more revenue for doing nothing

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Why single out Costco? You’ll find similar type packaging in almost any retail store – supermarkets definitely included!

      • thomas cordier says:

        Of course Costco is one of many but perhaps the largest and was within my experience. As usual you are distracting from discussion


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