Plastics in the oceans and in China

Plastics: the huge plague finally receiving more attention

“Plastic Ocean: it’s a must-watch for Attenborough”, the article by Stuart Heaver, 27 Nov 2016 on plastics in the oceans:
The article also shows the official trailer.

Described by the revered presenter as “one of the most important films of our time”, the programme investigates the damage caused when indestructible things become disposable.
Earlier this month, 300 guests sat in stunned silence as A Plastic Ocean, a new feature-length exploration of the impact of plastic in our seas, made its Asian premiere at the Asia Society, in Admiralty. The film, which goes on general release on January 19, documents the unfolding of an international environmental catastrophe. It took five years to investigate the global impact of eight million tonnes of plastic being dumped into our oceans annually.

Plastic Island

More again here about plastics in the oceans: “How our throwaway culture is turning paradise into a graveyard”
By Nick Paton Walsh, Ingrid Formanek, Jackson Loo and Mark Phillips

Midway Atoll, North Pacific Ocean (CNN) — The distance from humanity yawns out in front of you when you stand on the pale sands of this tiny Pacific island.
Midway Atoll is just about the furthest piece of land from civilization and its constant engine whir, data and jostle.
Standing on the island’s remote shoreline brings a calm and humility — until you look down at your feet.
On the beach lies a motorcycle helmet, a mannequin’s head, an umbrella handle, and a flip-flop. They didn’t fall from a plane or off a ship, and there aren’t any civilians living here who could have left them behind.
They were washed in with the tide, most likely from China or the US, thousands of miles away — part of an enormous plastic garbage patch, spinning in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which you probably contribute to. And these are just the bits of it we can see.

Plastic China

There is also a striking documentary done inside China, see (need VPN in China):

Plastic China Sundance Trailer (2016, China)
Jiuliang Wang Documentary (English Subtitles)
Published on Dec 21, 2016

Yi Jie’s uneducated parents left mountain village home town, looking for work. They sort & recycle plastic waste, and live among mountains of it too. Then there is the boss, Kun, and his family, who do dream of a better future… a universal story of social inequality.
Director – Jiuliang Wang
Winner – IDFA 2016

See more about the movie here:
‘Plastic China’: Film Review, 30 December 2016, by Neil Young
A touching microcosm of capitalist realities obliterating communist dreams.
Jiuliang Wang’s documentary won a prize when bowing at IDFA and will make its North American debut at Sundance.

Hopefully it will call the attention of more people, especially of the authorities who only pay lip service.
The topic also figures in my book Toxic Capitalism.

The right to repair movement

Should we have a right to repair our iPhones?

Part of the the right to repair movement, see this article by Joanita Wibowo for RN Breakfast, 30 November 2016.

I quote here parts (edited). It is totally in line with what I could write or have written myself. A video I made about some Apple products is in the pipeline.
The topic is also detailed in my book Toxic Capitalism, where I give several examples and attack the throw-away culture and the effect on our planet.

More about the right to repair movement

‘Right to Repair’ movement pushes back against manufacturers, 30 November 2016:

While many electronic have become more affordable to purchase in recent years, on the flipside many electronics are getting harder and more expensive to fix.
Manufacturers often restrict repair information to so-called ‘authorized repair centers’ leaving consumers with little option but to pay top-dollar for repairs.
Electronics might be cheaper than ever before, but they’re also harder to fix.
Manufacturers often restrict repair information to so-called “authorized repair centers”, leaving owners with little option to pay top-dollar or buy a replacement.
But now a community of like-minded activists is fighting back, trying to ensure that consumers have a “right to repair”. We’re the ones who own the goods, after all.
Manufacturers say: “Well, if you have any problems, you have to just go and buy another one.”
In other words, go and waste more.

The problem of e-waste

This is exactly the argument in my book.
See here one the many examples in my book, electronic starter units for TL lamps that have a lifetime of less than one year and then the complete set must be trashed. Chinese rubbish products. (Electronic ballasts employ transistors to change the supply frequency into high-frequency AC while also regulating the current flow in the lamp.)


According to right to repair advocates, our throw-away culture not only limits consumers’ rights, but harms the environment.
Electronics in particular are not very recyclable, so even if you take your electronics to recycler that can process electronics, they’re only able to get a few of the elements back.
The industry, however, is not sympathetic. As companies continue their efforts to make products unrepairable, the right to repair movement tries to find new loopholes and ways to mend electronics. It is actually getting worse, as we see with Apple products.
Many in the movement getting government on side as their best hope. In Sweden, for example, consumers are given tax breaks for having their electronics repaired in order to reduce waste.

Toestellen die te snel stuk gaan

Test-Aankoop start meldpunt voor toestellen die te snel stuk gaan

Heel interessant initiatief en ik kan me afvragen waarom dat zoland geduurd heeft.
Ziehier het artikel:
24/11/16- Knack Moneytalk

For our English speaking readers

The article mentions the set-up of a new initiatiive by the Belgian organization TEST AANKOOP (Test Purchases). It wants to point out companies who use built-in obsolescence to force consumer to buy new equipment, a practice I denounce also in my book Toxic Capitalism.
More about this all in other posts.


Het idee voor toestellen die te snel stuk gaan

De consumentenorganisatie wil met een nieuwe actie fabrikanten onder druk zetten om duurzamer te produceren. Als er genoeg bewijzen zijn dat een fabrikant een product bewust doet verouderen, sluit Test-Aankoop juridische acties niet uit.
Mijn reactie:
Prachtig idee. In mijn boek (Toxic Capitalism) klaag ik de vicieuse cirkel aan van kopen, weinig gebruiken, niet herstellen en terug kopen. Het ergste is inderdaad dat vandaag met alle expertise de fabrikanten het idee van “Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence” meer en meer toepassen. Ik verdedig met voorbeelden hoe men zelf een en ander kan herstellen. Maar producten zoals Apple iPhone opladers met de kabeltjes tonen het probleem: de isolatie is zo gemaakt dat het kapot gaat na een paar jaar terwijl isolatie van oudere kabeltjes 30 jaar meegaat. Dikwijls is het NIET moelijk te herstellen voor technische redenen. De “Repair Cafes” zijn ook een goed initiatief.

Beijing faces big problem in sorting garbage

Anybody sorts garbage?

As mentioned in my book Toxic Capitalism, we have a big problem in sorting garbage in Beijing, and probably everywhere in China.
Despite the good intentions of the city to provide some marked garbage containers to every household in some buildings, few people do sort garbage and even if they do, the recyclers jump on the building’s garbage containers to remove whatever they are interested in. While that is not that bad, they start messing up the containers and anyway, once the garbage is collected it ends up all together.

Beijing admits a defeat

See article dated 8 November 2016 “Why, after 16 years, is it still so difficult to sort garbage?”, by China Daily:
China Daily article
I quote the full article as it lays bare the problem:

The Beijing Municipal Commission of City Management recently said that some communities will pioneer garbage sorting, with the household waste being collected at different times of the day according to the type of trash it is. However, as Beijing Youth Daily points out, Beijing has been listed as a pioneer city for garbage sorting for 16 years and little progress has been made:
Some communities complain that their residents know little about how to sort garbage. If that’s true, it is really sad news because Beijing was listed as one of eight pioneering cities for garbage sorting in 2000. Why is it so difficult for residents to sort garbage 16 years after it became a policy?
It is unfair to say the government has done nothing. On the contrary, the municipal governments of the eight cities have invested heavily in improving the hardware. In Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing, as well as the other five pioneer cities, garbage bins for sorting purposes can be seen in communities. However, people simply put their garbage in them without sorting it.
There are two main problems. First, the municipal governments have not done enough to educate people about how to sort their garbage and what kind of waste should be put into which garbage bin. People have been asked to sort garbage, but nobody has actually shown them how to sort it or explained why it is important for them to do so.
Second, the waste management authorities do not take the matter seriously, either. Even when households do sort their garbage, when the trash trucks come the garbage is simply mixed together and transported away.
Further, the garbage processing industrial chain is far from complete. Most, if not all, of the garbage collected from communities will be burnt or buried, instead of being recycled.
So the solution lies in raising residents’ awareness of the importance of garbage sorting, more strictly ensuring the garbage collectors keep the garbage sorted, and encouraging more people to join the recycling industry. Only with comprehensive measures will garbage sorting become a success.

Worse: toxic waste

If there is a big problem in sorting garbage, worse is how to dispose of “toxic waste”, as I also mentioned in my book.
Toxic waste here: batteries of all kind and printer ink cartridges, just to name the ones I have again collected over the years.
Problem is simple: there is no place to dispose of it. I asked my (Chinese) wife and she also has no idea. Even if there are some isolated collection boxes in supermarkets (never seen any anyway!), they are too small to dispose of the cartridges. As for the energy-saving lamps, I have given up since long and throw them in the garbage. In our compound we do not have any special containers anyway.
So, Beijing citizens and your children, be warned:
“I will soon let you bury my toxic waste into your landfills to pollute the environment for your kids.”
Sorry, no other solution.

Waste of containers for food supplements

Food supplements containers

Here in the video I show some of the containers for food supplements that most of us have at home. The same can be said of containers for medicine and a variety of other products.
The point is, the vast majority of the containers are filled typically 30 to 50%, misleading the consumer but also wasting materials and contributing to waste.
See (VPN needed)(

Packaging, too often a huge waste

In the beginning of the clip, I show another source of waste: excessive packaging – also mentioned in my book.
The problem is now further made worse with another trend: online purchases delivered at home. In China we see an enormous amount of waste due to packing done by the delivery service: carton, tape, bubble paper and other.

160416-packagingSee the figures in China. Astonishing.

China’s e-waste recycling app goes global

E-waste recycling in China

China is one of the largest producers and recipients of e-waste in the world. According to a recycling industry report released by the Ministry of Commerce in May 2016, e-waste items recycled in China in 2015 alone amounted to 152.74 million pieces.

The cover of my book Toxic Capitalism shows the arrival yard of one of the few e-waste recycling factories around Beijing. As I describe in my book, the recycling industry in China might be big but is also contributing to more damage to the environment.
Another related issue is ‘toxic waste” such as batteries, ink cartridges and alike. In Beijing I did not find a way to properly dispose of it, as mentioned in my book.

Seminar on e-waste recycling

See the full story here (August 2016):

Participants from over 13 countries have come together to learn from China’s experience in managing the mounting e-waste recycling challenge, and be inspired by China’s e-waste management systems, practices, disposal and treatment technologies and how these can be applied and replicated throughout the world.
To discuss this challenge, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, developed a three-day workshop to share experience and knowledge with government representatives, private sector companies and academia. Participants will visit a dismantling factory in Tianjin, alongside learning about the Innovative Baidu Recycle App, launched by UNDP China and internet giant Baidu.

The pioneering Baidu Recycle App, uses an innovative model of connecting consumers, dismantlers and manufactures together using an efficient and user friendly smartphone app. The user can find out a price and recycle their electronic products using a nearby legitimate e-waste pick-up services, helping to simplify the recycling process and cut down on informal recycling stations.

OK to be honest I still don’t know much about this app – and it probably in Chinese only…

Creative recycling can be fun

Creative recycling can be cute, fun and useful.

See some images I collected from different corners.
They prove recycling can be more fun than just sorting out the trash in five different bags.

Be creative, look around and think a bit before throwing out stuff.

Half of all US food produce is thrown away

Food waste is worldwide problem

Here the focus of food waste is on the USA but I see this still being a problem in other Western countries.

When visiting the U.S. and Europe I often witness how consumers simply buy too much, stuff it in the fridge, use a little and then shamelessly throw away because it is “past date”. Or they prepare the food and throw away many parts that could be used. The excuse is, too old, cheap anyway (it was in promotion!), and “what’s your problem?”
I am shocked because the way I was brought up is “to never waste food”.
However the problem is more serious because before the food really arrives at the consumer, mountains were wasted due to poor storage, the fickle attitude of the big chains, the whole system.
Happily we see a trend where some shops now sell separately the “ugly produce”, or find a channel to unload the unused or “too old” produce (e.g. to charity or recycling).
The issue is also discussed in my book Toxic Capitalism.

So what are YOU doing about it?

See the full article here, dated 13 July 2016, highly recommended:
The Guardian article

Some main lines:

– Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment. Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards.

– Food waste is often described as a “farm-to-fork” problem. By one government tally, about 60m tons of produce worth about $160bn, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – one third of all foodstuffs.

– Scarred vegetables regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labor involved in harvest. Or left to rot in a warehouse because of minor blemishes that do not necessarily affect freshness or quality. When added to the retail waste, it takes the amount of food lost close to half of all produce grown, experts say.

– Some supermarket chains and industry groups in the US are pioneering ugly produce sections and actively campaigning to reduce such losses. But a number of producers and distributors claimed that some retailing giants were still using their power to reject produce on the basis of some ideal of perfection, and sometimes because of market conditions.