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Down to Earth

Garbage Wars: where does the world's trash go?

You may not know it, but your trash probably travels more than you do. The moment a plastic container ends up in your recycling bin marks the beginning of a long trip halfway across the world.

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The recycling journey, until recently, ended in China, where it was cleaned, crushed and transformed into raw material. But in 2018, Beijing decided it would no longer welcome the world's trash. With the loss of their overseas dumping ground, rich countries turned to other markets, mainly in Southeast Asia. Flooded with foreign trash, countries like Thailand and Malaysia eventually put their foot down, some even sending trash back to where it came from.

So what happens when the world’s largest buyer of trash bans such imports? And what can be done to deter rich countries from simply exporting their trash problem? Our reporters take a closer look.

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