Thursday September 19, 2019

Dumping Illegal Plastic Waste in Asia Leads to Killing of Crops and Causes Health Problems

​​China was the leading importer of plastic waste until it banned imports at the start of 2018 after a string of scandals

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plastic waste
FILE - A woman removes plastic waste stuck in tree branches near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam, June 4, 2018. VOA

The world’s recyclable plastic is being shipped to Asia where it is illegally dumped, buried or burned in the country with the lightest regulations, environmentalists warned on Tuesday calling for greater transparency in the global waste trade.

A report by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Greenpeace East Asia analyzed the top 21 exporters and importers of plastic recyclable waste from 2016 until 2018 – before and after China stopped taking such waste last year.

It found that plastic waste imports into Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam jumped from mid-2017 to early 2018, leading to illegal operations dumping and open-burning, contaminating water supplies, killing crops and causing respiratory illnesses.

“For the first world, it makes them feel good about their waste supposedly being recycled but in reality it ends up in countries that cannot deal with the waste,” said Beau Baconguis, a plastics campaigner at GAIA in Manila.

plastic waste, recycle
A laborer looks up as she sorts plastic bottles at a garbage recycling center in Hefei, Anhui province, China, May 20, 2014. VOA

“So the pollution is heading south to countries that do not have that capacity,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. As pollution and environmental damage linked to the rise in plastic waste became known in countries like Malaysia and Thailand during 2018, protests led to tighter waste regulations and import restrictions by authorities, the study found.

Large volumes of plastic waste then diverted to other countries in the region, like Indonesia and India, where regulations on the waste trade are more lenient, the study said. “Once one country regulates plastic waste imports, it floods into the next un-regulated destination,” said Kate Lin, a Hong Kong based campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia.

“It’s a predatory system, but it’s also increasingly inefficient,” she said. “Each new iteration shows more and more plastic going off grid – where we can’t see what’s done with it – and that’s unacceptable.”

​​China was the leading importer of plastic waste until it banned imports at the start of 2018 after a string of scandals. This disrupted the flow of more than 7 million tons of plastic scrap a year, valued at about $3.7 billion.

plastic waste, recycle
​​China was the leading importer of plastic waste until it banned imports at the start of 2018 after a string of scandals. VOA

The top exporters of plastic waste analyzed for the report included the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan.

Members of the Basel Convention, the main global pact regulating the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste, will meet in Geneva from April 29 and decide on a proposal from Norway to create greater transparency in plastic waste trade.

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If adopted, any plastic waste exporters would be required to obtain prior approval from an importing country, and give more detailed information on the volume and type of waste.

Greenpeace’s Lin welcomed the proposal but urged consumer goods companies to reduce the single-use plastics they produce. “It is a good step but definitely not a final solution,” Lin said. (VOA)

Next Story

Chhattisgarh Launches First ‘Garbage Cafe’ to Feed Poor in Leu of Plastic Waste

This scheme is being linked to the cleanliness campaign

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first garbage cafe
Persons fetching 1 kg plastic waste will be offered a full meal while those collecting 500 grams waste will get a substantial breakfast. Wikimedia Commons

The country’s first garbage cafe has been launched here in Chhattisgarh. Under this, the Municipal Corporation will provide food to the poor and homeless in lieu of plastic waste. Persons fetching 1 kg plastic waste will be offered a full meal while those collecting 500 grams waste will get a substantial breakfast.

Ambikapur, which has been selected as the second cleanest city after Indore, plans to use the plastic for construction of roads. The cafe will operate from the city’s main bus stand, said Mayor Ajay Tirkey who presented the city’s municipal budget on Monday.

The budget provides Rs 5 lakh for the Garbage Cafe Scheme. There is a plan to provide free shelter to the homeless who collect plastic waste. Ambikapur already has a road made with plastic granules and asphalt.

first garbage cafe
The cafe will operate from the city’s main bus stand, said Mayor Ajay Tirkey who presented the city’s municipal budget on Monday. Wikimedia Commons

The first such road in the state has been made in the city by mixing 8 lakh plastic bags. The road constructed by mixing plastic and asphalt is durable, because the water does permeate through it. Under the campaign, the Municipal Corporation will provide food for poor and homeless people of the city free of cost. Not only this, there will also be arrangements for shelter with food for such people.

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This scheme is being linked to the cleanliness campaign. Ambikapur is the second largest city in the country in the ‘Sanitation Campaign’. Tirkey said the corporation has already restricted the use of plastic carry bags.

By adding it to the Garbage Cafe scheme, it will be implemented strictly. Ambikapur made stupendous progress from last year’s 40th rank to mark its emphatic presence as the top civic administered town in solid waste management. (IANS)