Aiming to break away from the world’s “garbage dump”
Southeast Asia where a lot of plastics are discarded
Do you know where plastic waste is thrown away? China was the largest plastic waste disposer in the world. The country was a global waste disposer that had handled nearly 50% of plastic waste around the world, but in 2018, it banned the import of plastic waste for environmental reasons.
Plastic waste that has nowhere to go has come to be exported to Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In the Philippines, the amount of plastic waste imported in 2018 was about 11,800 tons, 2.5 times that of 2016.
These countries do not have facilities to dispose of hundreds of thousands of tons of waste. An environmental protection organization has pointed out that Southeast Asia has already been a “garbage dump” for developed countries. There is a fact that some of the plastics exported “for recycling” are causing environmental pollution by being dumped illegally into rivers and seas, and being burned and releasing toxic gases.
As a result, Southeast Asian countries have begun to take countermeasures one after another. Thailand and Vietnam have decided to regulate the acceptance of plastic waste for environmental protection, and in the Philippines, the export of plastic waste was banned for three months from August. However, environmental activists are concerned that these measures may cause illegal dumping of waste to other countries. “Even if one country bans imports, exporters will look for alternatives until they can find. In order to solve the problem, we have to thoroughly reduce the amount of waste,” said an environmental activist in Malaysia.
Starting efforts to reduce plastic waste
The total plastic production in the world increased from about 2 million tons in 1950 to 380 million tons in 2015, of which only 20% is recycled. Especially in developing countries, environmental pollution is caused by the improper disposal of plastic waste.
The only way to change such a situation is to reduce the use of plastic. According to a report issued by Greenpeace in this April, the plastic exports in the world halved after the ban of importing plastic waste in China. Arnaud Brunet, Director General, Bureau of International Recycling said, “the ban created a major shock in the global market.” “However, in the long run, it will encourage investment in the recycling industry and exporting countries and improve the quality of recycling.”
In this May, the Basel Convention adopted by more than 180 countries around the world was amended, which made it necessary to agree with the partner country for the export of plastic waste. In addition, about 40 companies, mainly major chemical manufacturers in developed countries, established a non-profit organization “Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)” in January, and has announced that it will invest $1 billion (107 billion yen) over the next five years mainly in Southeast Asia. Attention is being drawn to whether these efforts will enable Southeast Asia to be reborn as a place where promoting garbage recycling from the garbage dump for developed countries.