Plastic Usage Sustainabilty Issues in China

The documentary introduces us to the land of “Plastic China” and its multiple faces. China, the world’s biggest plastic waste importer, receives ten million tons of waste from the developing nations around the globe. This waste receives a facelift in the local “Plastic Workshops” and are exported back as manufactured toys or clothes. Industrialization on the mainland has had effects on various classes of society.


The documentary paints a rather sad portrait of a family of a migrant worker living and working in one such workshop.

It puts a human face to the darker side of China’s rush to embrace capitalism. Revolving around Yi Jie, 11yr old daughter of the migrant, the story tells us about the daily life of a worker family. Unschooled and leading a poor and distorted life, Yi Jie gets acquainted with the global culture through the waste that she handles on regular basis. The broken Barbie dolls are the friends that she could talk to, the discarded learning cards helped her with small English words and the small packs of black powder told her the bitter taste of coffee.

Her father never worked to deliver his promise of sending her daughter to a school. Instead, spent all the hard earned money on alcohol. But Yi Jie never gave up her dream of attending a school. For the girl, the owner of the factory, Kun represents the educated class, the money and power they hold. He physically and mentally exploits the families working under him to save enough for a new Sedan so that he could hold his head high.

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Sometimes he takes pity and tutors the girl.

Although the crew had come up with the documentary with positive intentions, it went off the internet due to an undesirable portrayal of the country on the global platform. The movie is still on limited sources and has stemmed the release of a shorter biased version. Plastic China shatters the fragile of China as growing prosperity. Numerous family-run factories operate in the open air by shredding the plastic into small units and then remoulding them into new goods. Recycling plastic is surely desirable but not at the cost of not adhering to safety standards. The workers sort plastic with bare hands, exposing them to the hazards of various chemicals which take a toll on their health. Another challenge associated with this industry is the method involved in these workshops. Without proper protection and causing secondary pollution they prove to be costlier.

Sustainability Focus

The documentary is an eye-opener for all. A global giant like China is expected to follow some rules and regulations in sensitive matters like these. It casts a light on the issues regarding the recycling of plastic, an environmental hazard. It focuses on all 3 aspects of sustainability, social, economic and environment. A larger part of it focuses on the social implications. The workers involved in the factory and also those involved in managing them. All for meagre margins associated with the industry. Their lives are vulnerable due to the surroundings they live in. Being an important stakeholder in the issue, they are not entitled to protection against any sort of exploitation. Due to improper knowledge and awareness, they remain ignorant of the dangerous implications and all possible methods to improve their lives. The secondary pollution caused due to these plants cannot be neglected as it causes a disproportion between the profit and costs.

Environmental Ethic

The treatment of the issue is ecocentric. We all are fully aware of the fact that the use of plastic is extremely harmful to the environment around us. Albeit, we resort to practices that increase the consumption of plastic and do not strictly follow the safe disposal methods. In the light of growing concern on rising temperatures and melting snow caps, there needs to be a minimum disturbance to natural processes. The earth is capable of handling a certain limit of damage beyond which we might face repercussions that can be too hard to handle. It is better to understand that the earth is for all of us and we must use its resources judiciously and minimise the damage caused due to human interference.


A considerable part of the documentary focuses on the low wage workers of the factory and the owner. Neither governments nor the rich care that these people live in horrid, they are people making their living from our throwaways. They eat dead fish from the polluted river. They wash their faces, hair and bodies in the dirty water left after processing plastic and burn plastic for their cooking fire. The kids search for their toys from the garbage. The daughter is the babysitter of four of her younger siblings and cooks that’s why she’s not in school. If the father died or something, they’ll sell the daughter feigning ignorance into sex slavery. No one cares that they breathe, wash, eat pollution or that the other father has tumours possibly cancer.

The dominants in the issue are government agencies who frame the regulations governing the working of these factories and can reduce the damage done to the workers as well as the environment. Some other stakeholders that were not mentioned enough are people like us. Consumers who do not care about the amount of plastic that goes out of our houses and cities. We consider it our right to use the goods at our luxury without measuring how it would impact on a larger scale. The NGO’s and other marginals must have their say heard by society as a whole.

Implications for Business and Society

The demand of society drives the growing use of plastics. Consumers must be guided by its environmental merits before buying any goods. Adopting sustainable practices in any business requires the integration of the whole supply chain right from the partners to the distributors and vendors. Evolving with responsible use of plastics brings a first-mover advantage for a firm in terms of the ground level standards and methodologies.

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Plastic Usage Sustainabilty Issues in China. (2022, Aug 02). Retrieved from

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