Countries in Southeast Asia have long served as the dumping grounds for massive amounts of trash from Western countries.
The world’s richer countries have been exporting garbage for decades. Countries like the UK, Germany, the US, Canada, and Australia among others, send millions of tons of garbage to Asian countries– including China, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
Many of those countries have lacked environmental regulations, making them an attractive place to dispose of plastics for cheap. Western companies want to pay as little as possible to dispose of their trash and they don’t really care about what happens to it once they get rid of it.
China was once the largest dumping ground for plastics, receiving some 600,000 tons of imported plastic waste a month at its height in 2016, according to a report published by Greenpeace.
China banned the import of plastic waste last year, so now companies send those vast amounts of trash to other countries in the region. Most of the plastics sent to those countries end up being burned or rotting in landfills.
Only 9% of the world’s plastics end up being recycled, National Geographic reported in 2017. Most plastics are dumped or burned, and these practices have caused respiratory illnesses among nearby residents, water contamination, and crop deaths.
Now, some of those countries that were used as dumping grounds are taking their rejection of Western plastic a step further by sending the trash back where it came from.
Malaysia, now the world’s largest importer of plastic waste after China’s ban, announced it will begin sending thousands of tons back to the exporting countries, including the US, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, and the UK.
Yeo Bee Yin, Malaysia’s environment minister, said her country would ship 60 containers of illegal trash back to the exporting countries.
The Philippines loaded 69 shipping containers of garbage onto a cargo vessel back to Canada on Friday, after a long campaign to urge Canada to take back the rotting waste.
Photo: “Saltwater Creek walkway, Timaru” by Samuel Mann is licensed under CC BY 2.0