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Asian countries have had enough of foreign plastic waste
Posted on 03/08/2019


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Cambodia is the latest Asian nation refusing to accept plastic waste from abroad.

"Not a dustbin"

Victor Koldunov/123RF

On July 18, Cambodia announced that it would return 1,600 metric tons of plastic waste to the US and Canada. China was the first country in Asia to refuse nearly all plastic waste and recyclables from abroad in 2018 and a number of other nations have followed suit in returning waste that is hazardous, illegal or doesn't conform to guidelines.

The growing annoyance with poorly sorted or hazardous plastic waste comes as many countries in Asia attempt to tighten environmental regulations and reduce pollution.

The reversals and bans have caused an upheaval in the waste disposal industries in many countries such as China and Indonesia, leading to lay-offs and shipping container pile-ups at ports. But authorities believe that this it's still a step in the right direction.

Southeast Asia has been overwhelmed with poorly sorted plastic waste since China's 2018 ban. Many nations also have plastic waste disposal problems of their own and lack the infrastructure for comprehensive domestic recycling initiatives.

A spokesperson for Cambodia's environment minister declared that "Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country."

The environmental non-profit Plastic Oceans states that 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced each year, and only 9% of it is recycled. According to the same organization, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year.

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