TCoPS - 17

DEEP DIVE 2: A SELECTION OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES BEAR A DISPROPORTIONATE SHARE
OF WASTE MANAGEMENT COSTS; IN SOME CASES, HIGH-INCOME COUNTRIES (HICS) ARE STILL
SHIPPING PLASTIC WASTE TO LOW-INCOME COUNTRIES (LICS) DESPITE ACTIONS BEING TAKEN
TO LIMIT THESE PLASTIC EXPORTS.
To benefit from the lower cost of recycling, HICs
have historically sent a significant amount of
plastic waste overseas to be recycled. Between 1992
and 2018, China cumulatively imported 45% of the world's
plastic waste, making the global plastic waste market
dependent on access to the Chinese recycling sector.70
However, in 2018 China passed the National Sword policy
limiting plastic waste imports. Due to a lack of recycling
capacity, instead of handling the waste that would have
been sent to China domestically, HICs turned to countries
in South East Asia and Africa. In 2019, the US sent 83,000
tonnes of plastic recycling to Viet Nam alone,71
equivalent
to the plastic waste produced annually by approximately
300,000 US households.72
However, a large majority of this waste is not
recycled, leaking into environment, and causing
damage to destination country environment and
human health. Many of the destination countries have
limited waste management systems, for example in Viet
Nam 72% of plastic waste is mismanaged and becomes
plastic pollution.73
Despite policies to tackle plastic exports,
limitations in HIC waste management systems
necessitate a maintained reliance on exporting
waste. Governments have taken action to limit the flow of
waste from abroad through the recent amendments to the
Basel Convention, but plastic exports are still happening.
Trade data for January 2021 showed that American exports
of plastic scrap to LICs had stayed at a similar level between
January 2020 and January 2021. For example, Malaysia
remained a major destination for American scrap plastic in
January 2021.75
Illegal waste operations have also emerged, taking
advantage of the lack of capacity in formal systems.
For example, in emerging Asian importing countries, illegal
recycling facilities have profited by circumventing licence
costs and environmentally sound treatment costs.76
The
Such plastic pollution imposes countless
detrimental impacts on destination countries, including
contaminated water supplies, crop death, and respiratory
illness from exposure to burning plastic.74
© shutterstock / Parilov
increase in plastic waste has also increased illegal landfills,
contributing to the risk of environmental plastic leakage.
Therefore, destination country governments are having to
pay the cost of the clean-up, enforcement, and monitoring
instead of the industries and countries creating the waste.
17

TCoPS

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of TCoPS

TCoPS - 1
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