Wednesday May 22, 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

0
//
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.

ALSO READ: Melinda Gates Speaks About ‘Brash’ Microsoft Culture in her New Book ‘The Moment of Lift’

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

Every Country Agrees to Reduce Pollution from Plastic Waste Except US

“There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for the export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said

0
reduce pollution from plastic waste
FILE - A man guides a raft through a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage in Mumbai, India, Oct. 2, 2016. VOA

Nearly every country in the world has agreed upon a legally binding framework to reduce the pollution from plastic waste except for the United States, U.N. environmental officials say.

An agreement on tracking thousands of types of plastic waste emerged Friday at the end of a two-week meeting of U.N.-backed conventions on plastic waste and toxic, hazardous chemicals. Discarded plastic clutters pristine land, floats in huge masses in oceans and rivers and entangles wildlife, sometimes with deadly results.

Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program said the “historic” agreement linked to the 186-country, U.N.-supported Basel Convention means that countries will have to monitor and track the movements of plastic waste outside their borders.

reduce pollution from plastic waste
Plastic waste piled outside an illegal recycling factory in Jenjarom, Kuala Langat, Malaysia, Oct. 14, 2018. VOA

The deal affects products used in a broad array of industries, such as health care, technology, aerospace, fashion, food and beverages. “It’s sending a very strong political signal to the rest of the world — to the private sector, to the consumer market — that we need to do something,” Payet said. “Countries have decided to do something which will translate into real action on the ground.”

Countries will have to figure out their own ways of adhering to the accord, Payet said. Even the few countries that did not sign it, like the United States, could be affected by the accord when they ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

reduce pollution from plastic
Plastic waste floating in ocean waters is turning out to be the most difficult environmental challenge facing many Southeast Asian nations. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Taking Daily Aspirin Pill Without Heart Disease Increases the Risk of Brain Bleeding

Payet credited Norway for leading the initiative, which first was presented in September. The time from that proposal to the approval of a deal set a blistering pace by traditional U.N. standards for such an accord. The framework “is historic in the sense that it is legally binding,” Payet said. “They (the countries) have managed to use an existing international instrument to put in place those measures.”

The agreement is likely to lead to customs agents being on the lookout for electronic waste or other types of potentially hazardous waste more than before. “There is going to be a transparent and traceable system for the export and import of plastic waste,” Payet said. (VOA)