While a full 90% of Americans report recycling and reusing plastic bags, some in China are taking the word “recycle” a bit too literally.
According to a recent news story, three men in eastern China have been arrested for repurposing plastic medical waste into childrens’ toys and tableware. The men were found by authorities at an illegal waste dump in Nanjing, China back in August.
One of the men confessed to recycling used hypodermic needles, prescription bottles, intravenous fluid drip bags, and tubes of all shapes and sizes, which he purchased from hospitals around the Jiangsu province. After he bought the tons and tons of plastic, he would then hire out a local company to sort through the waste and ship it off to plastic processing plants.
These plants would melt down the plastic into little pellets called nurdles, and then sell it online to plastic factories all over the globe. The medical waste is made primarily of polypropylene and polyethylene, which are two materials highly used during the plastic making process, making this recycling gig quite profitable.
Under Chinese law, used medical waste must be disposed of in a very specific manner, and these three men are facing charges that can keep them in jail for up to seven years.
This plastic could have also been used to fabricate what African officials are calling “Chinese plastic rice.” Officials in Nigeria have seized 2.5 tons of rice from China that is made from small plastic pellets.
The government had to get involved after many Nigerians complained of their rice, labeled “Best Tomato Rice,” tasting uncharacteristically hard and melting to metal pots during boiling.
The 102 bags of rice were found at a store in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. The bags are believed to have been illegally shipped from China through a port in Lagos.