Importing air pollution? Evidence from China's plastic waste imports

49 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2022

See all articles by Kerstin Unfried

Kerstin Unfried

University of Goettingen (Göttingen)

Feicheng Wang

University of Groningen; Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 7, 2022

Abstract

Plastic waste trade has grown considerably in the last decades and has caused severe environmental problems in recipient countries. As the largest recipient, China has permanently banned the imports of plastic waste since 2018. This paper examines the causal effect of plastic waste imports on air pollution by exploiting China's experience of importing plastic waste and the recent import ban. Combining data on plastic waste imports with PM2.5 data at the city level for the years 2000-2011, we find that plastic waste imports increased PM2.5 density significantly. This effect is linked to expanded production in the waste processing sector and an increased number of incineration. To evaluate the impact of the import ban on air quality, we employ daily data on air pollution between 2015 and 2020. Our difference-in-differences results show that affected cities, relative to other cities, experienced a significant improvement in air quality following the ban. These findings suggest potential environmental gains from banning plastic waste imports in other countries.

Keywords: Plastic waste trade, waste import ban, air pollution, PM2.5, China

JEL Classification: F18, F64, Q53, Q56

Suggested Citation

Unfried, Kerstin and Wang, Feicheng, Importing air pollution? Evidence from China's plastic waste imports (April 7, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4078240 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4078240

Kerstin Unfried

University of Goettingen (Göttingen)

Feicheng Wang (Contact Author)

University of Groningen ( email )

Groningen, 9717 JA
Netherlands

Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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