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Trash Trouble

STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

PLASTIC PROBLEM: A worker sorts plastic bottles at a recycling plant in China.

JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN® (MAP)

What happens to the bottles, cans, and newspapers you toss into your recycling bin? For decades, the U.S. and other countries shipped most of these items to China to be recycled. The country once imported more than 9 million metric tons of plastic trash per year—about the weight of 60,000 adult blue whales. But as of early 2018, China no longer accepts most imported recyclable garbage. Much of the waste once sent from the U.S. to China is now headed for landfills or incineration plants around the country. Though there are still robust recycling programs in the U.S., it’s more important than ever to avoid single-use plastics like cups and bottles.

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