China, India, Thailand and Vietnam have stopped accepting trash from Europe and North America.
For years developed nations have been in the habit of shipping lots of their waste off to poorer countries, much of it hazardous and nonrecyclable plastic waste.
They won’t be able to do that now. In a move aimed at further regulating global disposal methods, 186 nations have agreed to add plastic waste to the Basel Convention, which controls the transboundary movement of hazardous waste products.
This means plastic waste too is now among globally regulated substances. Waste exporters will now need to receive permission from the governments of recipient nations before they can offload toxic or unrecyclable plastic waste onto their territories. The new rule is legally binding across the world.
Plastic waste and its disposal are among “the world’s most pressing environmental issues,” stresses Rolph Payet, executive secretary of the United Nations Environment agency. “[C]lose to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action [which] is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high,” Payet added.
The issue of richer nations shipping off their plastic waste captured headlines last year when China, which is the world’s biggest importer of plastic scrap, decided to stop buying any more non-industrial plastic scrap. The decision caused developed nations, including those in the European Union (which is the world’s biggest exporter of plastic waste), to start looking elsewhere in the hope of offloading their waste on to developing countries for a fee.
Yet many poorer nations, many of which themselves produce vast amounts of plastic waste, also proved far less willing to continue to serve as dumping grounds for waste from the west. India, Thailand and Vietnam stopped accepting trash from developed nations, along with China.
The government of the Philippines has even called on Canada to retrieve trash that the North American country mistakenly sent to the island nation a few years ago. “If they cannot [do] that, then we will be shipping [the mounds of trash] out and throw them to the shores or beaches of Canada,” a presidential spokesman, Salvador Panelo, warned Canada’s government.
Now that developing nations no longer wish to be dumping grounds for waste from the west, Europeans and North Americans will have to deal with their plastic waste back home.