@Ishmael: China's anti-pollution laws were late in coming, rarely enforced, and pretty much ignored. As you object to flying and riding in autos, I will leave the impact of pollution on civilization to your imagination.
For a time, in the 1990’s, I participated in the recyclables market. I was contacted by a Chinese guy who wanted to import recyclables from the US. So, acting as in his agent, I arranged for five containers of clean, crushed and compacted aluminum cans to be sent to China.
At the time, shipping a container of goods from China to the US would cost about $3000 USD per container. In the US empty containers were stacking up in US harbors. Shipping from the US to China would cost about $200 USD, or less, for a container. You can get a lot of aluminum cans and a 40’ container so the cost per kilo to ship recyclables to China was pretty low.
Then I was contacted about plastics. I found a source of clean, sorted, shredded plastic and, acting as an agent for the buyer, had 10 containers to be shipped to China. The buyer was upset because he did not want clean, sorted, shredded plastic, he wanted basically just the plastic in any condition, any type, any color no restrictions, just full containers of plastic.
Shipping was by Cosco, the Chinese line in every deal.
When I was contacted by authorities in Los Angeles regarding cars stolen in LA being shipped to China, and then questioned about potential contamination, I decided the marginal income wasn't worth the potential problems and stopped doing the business.
Some have decried the 'dumping' this stuff in China and elsewhere. I understand that concern but I must point out that there must exist a demand for trash or it doesn't move. I found American Capitalists were in the recycling business but Chinese buyers were demanding lower quality and insisted on paying less. Trash is cheaper.