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U.N.’s Anti-Drug Agency Claims, Methamphetamine Production Skyrocketing in Southeast Asia

"Aside from methamphetamine which is getting most of the attention because of the surge in seizures and street price drops, synthetic opioids and other drugs have also been found across the region,"

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A member of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, PDEA, collects packs of Methamphetamine Hydrochloride also known as "Shabu" which they found hidden inside a steel cylinder in one of the biggest drug hauls in Manila, Philippines, on Aug. 7, 2018. Pixabay

Production of methamphetamine is skyrocketing in Southeast Asia, with prices dropping and usage expanding, the U.N.’s anti-drug agency said Monday.

Even as seizures of the drug known as speed, ice and “ya ba” in its various forms reached a record high last year, street prices have dropped, indicating increased availability, said a report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The agency said methamphetamine has become the main drug of concern in 12 out of 13 East and Southeast Asian countries, up from five a decade ago. The only exception was Vietnam, where heroin is considered the major problem.

In Thailand alone, 515 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in 2018, 17 times the total amount of the drug seized a decade ago in all 13 countries combined, the U.N. agency said. Much of the supply comes from neighboring Myanmar.

“Data on seizures, prices, use and treatment all point to continuing expansion of the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia,” said Tun Nay Soe, the agency’s inter-regional program coordinator.

FILE - Thai policemen arrange packages of methamphetamine on a table before a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 15, 2013.
Thai policemen arrange packages of methamphetamine on a table before a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 15, 2013. VOA

The report warns that organized crime groups in the region have stepped up their involvement in making and trafficking methamphetamine and other drugs in the Golden Triangle, the region where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet that has historically been a major source of opium and heroin.

It said the drug market in East and South-East Asia had shifted from such opiates to methamphetamine since the latter part of the 2000s.

“The shift to methamphetamine has affected even countries traditionally known to have a relatively large market for heroin, such as China and Malaysia,” it said. “In Malaysia, the number of methamphetamine users detected by law enforcement authorities surpassed that of heroin users for the first time in 2017.”

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The drug agency warned that other synthetic drugs were also gaining traction in Asian markets. VOA

In another indicator of the methamphetamine epidemic, medical treatment related to its use dominated the number of drug-related admissions in several East and Southeast Asian countries, the report said.

The drug agency warned that other synthetic drugs were also gaining traction in Asian markets.

Also Read: NASA’s Future Scientists Would Likely Be Better Equipped To Study The Lunar Material

“Potent synthetic opioids (e.g. fentanyl), implicated in fatalities in other parts of the world, are being identified by some countries in the region,” it said. Fentanyl is one of a number of opioids responsible for growing deaths of drug users in the United States.

“Aside from methamphetamine which is getting most of the attention because of the surge in seizures and street price drops, synthetic opioids and other drugs have also been found across the region,” said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. (VOA)

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UN Calls People to Favour Products Containing Plastic Recycled from Waste

Manufacturers, meanwhile, need to improve designs so that a product’s plastic components are more easily recovered for recycling, use recycled plastic in their products, and advertise that feature to consumers

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Carpets, Rugs, Plastic Waste, Biodegradable, Recycle
The rugs manufacturer and exporter emphasises green and responsible production using non-polluting manufacturing practices and conservation of energy and materials as far as possible. Pixabay

A European Commission-funded project supported by the UN is calling for consumers to demand electronic and electrical products made with recycled plastic, and for manufacturers to redesign products to both improve recyclability and integrate recycled plastics in new products.

The call is made by PolyCE (for Post-Consumer High-tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy), a multinational consortium led by Fraunhofer IZM and universities– UN University, Bonn; University of Ghent, Belgium; Technical University Berlin; and University of Northampton, Britain, civil society organisations (European Environmental Bureau), and numerous companies — including Philips and Whirlpool.

The 20 partners launching the two-year campaign are based or operate in nine countries: Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Finland, the US and Britain.

According to the Nordic Council of Ministers, plastics account for about 20 per cent of all materials in electronic and electrical equipment, most of it not designed for recovery and reuse.

The PolyCE consortium is launching a two-year campaign to raise awareness among consumers and manufacturers in order to change their attitudes towards recycled plastics and improve their market uptake.

Says project partner Kim Ragaret, University of Gent: “Plastics are a valuable resource with a great potential for circularity. Plastics themselves aren’t the problem; our so-called plastics problems relate to attitudes and waste management.

Plastics are essential for making many different components of electronic and electrical products, including phones, computers, TVs, vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and household appliances.

According to PolyCE consortium experts, products can be designed in ways that make material recovery of plastic components easier.

Of the more than 12 million tonnes of e-waste expected next year in Europe (EU, Norway and Switzerland), an estimated 2.5 million tonne (23 per cent) will be plastics.

Campaign, Plastic, Waste
Plastic waste is seen on the River Tisza near Tiszafured, Hungary, Oct. 1, 2019. VOA

That’s the weight equivalent of 62,500 fully-loaded 40-tonne trucks — enough to form a line from Rome to Frankfurt — and 2.5 times the 1 million tonne of plastic landfilled as e-waste components in the year 2000.

The PolyCE consortium noted a report from Sweden that, globally, just 10 per cent of higher grade plastics from durable goods is recovered and recycled worldwide today, which compares poorly with average 50 to 90 per cent recovery and recycling rates for metals and glass.

The project illustrates through a number of demonstrators that making electronic and electrical equipment containing high-quality recycled plastics is economically feasible for manufacturers, and the products are just as long-lasting and durable as those containing virgin plastics.

In addition, buying electronic and electrical equipment containing recycled plastics offers many other benefits for the environment.

Recycling plastic would not only take pressure off waste systems (in Europe, some 31 per cent of plastic waste still enters landfills while 39 per cent is incinerated) every tonne recycled would also help avoid up to 3 tonne of CO2 emissions created making new plastic.

A recent consumer survey carried out by the PolyCE project found that half of respondents did not know if they had ever bought a tech product that included recycled plastic.

Of the 25 per cent who said yes to the question, 86 per cent noticed no difference in quality, appearance or performance.

Also Read: Tech Giant Apple Removes Police-tracking App Used in HK Protests

Informed about the health and environmental benefits of recycled plastic components in electronic and electrical equipment, 95 per cent of those surveyed confirmed that they would buy products with that feature.

According to the survey, consumers show high willingness to act in line with the circular economy, but actual engagement is still pretty low, unfortunately. But communication is key.

“The consumer has absolutely vital role in a sustainable, circular economy and manufacturing system,” says UN University e-waste expert Ruediger Kuehr.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, need to improve designs so that a product’s plastic components are more easily recovered for recycling, use recycled plastic in their products, and advertise that feature to consumers. (IANS)