After China, India recently banned all kinds of imports of foreign solid plastic waste and scrap to “close the gap between waste generation and recycling capacity,” with effect from March 1. China banned foreign plastic waste imports with effect from January 1, 2018, and India followed its footsteps to be on track to meet the target of phasing out single-use plastics entirely by 2022.
Nearly 26,000 tons of plastic waste produced by the country daily and out of that, 40% remains uncollected due to lack of adequate recycling facilities as per the study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Therefore, India hardly needs any additional trash.
Some prohibitions were already in place to limit the import of plastic to companies in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and at the same time allowing specific businesses to get resources from a foreign country. However, as per the report of the Economic Times, “The provision of partial ban was misused by many companies on the pretext of being in an SEZ.”
“The country has now completely prohibited the import of solid plastic waste by amending the Hazardous Waste (Management & Trans-boundary Movement) Rules on March 1,” an environment ministry official of India said according to the Economic Times. “It has been done keeping in consideration ‘ease of doing business’ and boosting ‘Make in India’ initiative by simplifying the procedures under the rules, while at the same time upholding the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment.”
As per his statement, the rules were amended because there is a vast gap between the country’s waste generation and recycling capacity and also due to the fact that India is committed to phasing out single-use plastics totally by 2022.
The countries like The UK, along with the US, Germany, Mexico, and Japan were some biggest scrap plastic exporters to China until the former enforced the ban in 2018. When China banned plastic imports, a large amount of plastic used to be imported by India, and it emerged as one of the largest importers of plastic waste in the World.
Now the recent ban in India will route that trash to Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other less regulated countries in larger quantities. From the last year, plastic imports have been increased drastically in these countries. According to The Independent, the imports have risen three times in Malaysia than earlier, by 50% in Vietnam, and fifty times from what used to be imported before in Thailand.
“After China’s announcement that it would no longer accept ‘foreign garbage,’ environment secretary Michael Gove said the UK had to ‘stop offshoring our dirt’ and deal with its plastic waste at home. But at the time, India was mentioned as one destination for plastic rubbish as a ‘short term’ alternative destination to China.”
It thus brings an end to the short term solutions for the western nations to corner their waste to distant places of the Earth and it’s apparent that they cannot manage wastes of their lives in this way anymore. As of now, though countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand are satisfactorily receiving the same, it will not last.
The ban on waste imports is purely an official stance and depends on the opinion of the people in the country as it poses a threat to the health and well-being of citizens. Understandably, the people of the nation receiving the trash get affected profoundly by the increased pollution.
Until “there is no away,” and no place to send the detritus, the western countries like the United States, Canada, and Europe will not seriously rethink over their packaging and consumption styles. These countries should be forced to live with their trash to find inventive ways to reuse and recycle it. The practice of using plastics and dumping on more loosely-regulated countries is unsupportable, and it must come to an end.