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article imageWe are just seeing the tip of the iceberg on non-recyclable waste

By Karen Graham     May 28, 2019 in Environment
For the past year, the waste of the world has been gathering on the shores of south-east Asia. Containers full of unwanted waste have been accumulating in ports in Indonesia and Vietnam - while vast toxic wastelands of plastics cover parts of Malaysia.
On June 21, 2018, Digital Journal warned the world would soon be dealing with a glut of plastic waste equivalent to 21 times the mass of the Great Pyramids at Giza, with no obvious strategy available for recycling it.
On January 1, 2018, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection's (MEP) new “National Sword” policy, which bans 24 types of solid waste, including various plastics and unsorted mixed papers, and sets a much tougher standard for contamination levels, went into effect.
And it's not as if the world wasn't given a "heads-up" ahead of the new regulations. The world's waste exporting nations had almost a year to come up with national plans to deal with the tons of waste they had been shipping to China. Since 1988, nearly half of the world's recyclable plastic has been shipped to China - and now the world's disposal system was cut off.
Chart showing the rise of plastic imports in selected Southeast Asia countries after the Chinese pla...
Chart showing the rise of plastic imports in selected Southeast Asia countries after the Chinese plastic waste imports ban in 2018
Laurence CHU, AFP
The pushback has started
Last week, the Philippines said it would ship back dozens of containers of garbage which Filipino officials say were illegally shipped to the country from Canada in 2013 to 2014.
Just a short time after Duterte's government made its announcement, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced the government has awarded a contract to a shipping company, Bollore Logistics Canada, that will return the 69 containers filled with household waste and electronic garbage.
Today, Malaysia's Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin announced they will send back some 3,000 metric tons (3,300 tons) of non-recyclable plastic waste to countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. Yeo said Malaysia and other developing countries have become the new dumping ground for rich nations, especially after China's ban on plastic waste went into effect.
Plastic waste is seen floating on a sewage canal in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince  on April 23 ...
Plastic waste is seen floating on a sewage canal in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, on April 23, 2019. Around 180 governments Have agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste
CHANDAN KHANNA, AFP
Yeo said 60 containers filled with contaminated waste were smuggled into the country en route to illegal processing facilities in Malaysia and will be sent back to their countries of origin. She showed reporters what some of the containers held at a port outside Kuala Lumpur.
The waste included cables from the U.K., contaminated milk cartons from Australia and compact discs from Bangladesh, as well as bales of electronic and household waste from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and China.
Yeo said the waste from China appeared to be garbage from France and other countries that had been rerouted after the ban imposed by China.
To say the least, it is shameful that wealthy countries have taken to dumping their garbage on the shores of less prosperous countries. Even worse, is that unscrupulous middleman - eager to make a buck - are willing to bring the garbage into countries with little or no environmental regulations.
In Australia  Europe and the US  many of those collecting plastic and other recyclables were left sc...
In Australia, Europe and the US, many of those collecting plastic and other recyclables were left scrambling to find new places to send it after China stopped importing plastic waste for recycling
Brenton EDWARDS, AFP
"This is probably just the tip of the iceberg (due) to the banning of plastic waste by China," Yeo told a news conference. "Malaysia will not be a dumping ground to the world ... we will fight back. Even though we are a small country, we can't be bullied by developed countries."
And she is a woman of her word. Five containers of illegal rubbish from Spain discovered at a Malaysian port have already started on their return trip home. Yeo added China's plastic waste ban had "opened up the eyes of the world to see that we have a huge garbage and recycling problem."
An environmental injustice taking place
Yes, it started with China's ban on plastic waste from other countries. Since 1988, nearly half of the world's recyclable plastic had been shipped to China where it was recycled and made into more plastics. But with China taking seriously its sustainability goals, the world was left without a major recycler.
The world produces close to 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year as consumers and businesses thro...
The world produces close to 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year as consumers and businesses throw out their old smartphones, computers and household appliances -- matrial worth an estimated $62.5 billion (55 billion euros)
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU, AFP/File
This forced private corporations, handling trash for governments, to find somewhere else to dump their waste. With most of the rubbish routed through Hong Kong, south-east Asia, which was nearby and had lax environmental regulations, became an attractive alternative destination for the rubbish.
Beau Baconguis, Plastics Campaigner of GAIA Asia Pacific, pointed out how developed countries in the west were still only willing to take back their own rubbish “begrudgingly," reports The Guardian.
“It’s their waste so these countries should be responsible for it,” said Baconguis. “To us, it’s an environmental injustice for poorer countries to take the waste of richer countries just because they don’t want to deal with it. So hopefully when their rubbish is sent back, finally these countries will be forced into action on their own doorstep.”
More about Malaysia, plastic waste, western countries, trash dump, Environmental regulations
 
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