American plastic waste sent to developing countries after Chinese ban

The import of American plastic waste has increased sharply in developing countries in South-East Asia during the first six months of this year. According to Greenpeace, the US dumps its waste in the poorer countries, because China refuses to accept it any longer.

China decided to close its doors for “foreign waste” at the end of last year. The country was the largest importer of plastic for decades: for example, since 1992 it has absorbed around 45 percent of all waste worldwide, to process it. In 2017, for example, the United States sent 70 percent of all their plastic waste to China and Hong Kong.

The drastic decision to stop there now appears to have major consequences for other countries in the region. Figures from the American trade office show that poorer countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are the victims.

While China and Hong Kong accounted for more than 637,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the first six months of 2017, this figure has dropped to ‘barely’ 90,000 tonnes in the same period this year. Exports to Thailand, on the other hand, increased from 4,000 tons to more than 91,000 tons, an increase of 1,985 percent. Malaysia saw 42,000 tons of American plastic coming in last year, more than 157,000 tons this year.

The total export of plastic waste has fallen sharply worldwide, because the global market has become much smaller because of the Chinese decision. Other Western countries are also struggling with the question of where they can send their waste.

Greenpeace complains with the study that the US is trying to dump their waste in countries where there are few legal standards to process the plastic in an environmentally friendly way. “Instead of taking responsibility, outside of US companies, the developing countries have no rules to protect themselves,” said John Hocevar, campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

According to Hocevar, the Chinese decision no longer to use up for foreign waste now only makes clear how great the global plastic crisis is. “We all produce together a gigantic mountain of plastic material of which we no longer know what to do with it afterwards”, as it can no longer be transported to China.

In the countries where the import of plastic is increasing, the protest has also grown since the Chinese decision. Thailand thinks about a similar ban, Vietnam decided in May to close its ports for two weeks after the massive increase.

Source: The Guardian, Greenpeace

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