Waste exporters target Southeast Asia after China bans foreign waste

Big waste exporters have become worried after China implemented a strict and comprehensive ban on 24 kinds of solid waste at the beginning of this year. The pressure is also felt in Southeast Asia, which has replaced China as the new destination of foreign waste, Xinhua reported.

The ban was announced last July and officially enforced in this year. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, exporters in Europe, the U.S., Japan, and other developed countries will be the first to feel the impact.

“The whole industry has been impacted unexpectedly,” said Surendra Patawari Borad, a businessman who runs a recycling company in Belgium and the US and chairs the plastics committee at the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), who is well aware of China’s role in the industry.

In 2016, China imported 7.3 million tons of plastic waste, accounting for 56 percent of the world’s total plastic waste imports, the foundation disclosed.

A founder of an international plastic waste recycling company based in Hong Kong says China’s ban on foreign rubbish was destined to happen.

Western companies have resorted to incineration or landfills to deal with additional waste. However, both methods will exert disastrous effects on the environment, industry analysts warn.

Under the circumstances, they have found Southeast Asia as an alternative export market, where the waste recycling industry is still immature.

According to data provided by BIR, the volume of plastic waste imports in Southeast Asian countries has been rising fast.

For instance, the volume of plastic waste imports in Malaysia is expected to rise from 450,000 tons to 500,000 tons in 2017, an increase of 50 percent compared with 288,000 tons in 2016. The 2016-2017 year-on-year growth in Vietnam and Thailand is at 62 percent and 117 percent, respectively, according to BIR.

Few people in Malaysia see plastic waste recycling as a promising industry. In fact, many companies know that plastic waste causes real harm to the environment.

The environmental protection industry is alert to the rapid expansion of foreign waste. Industry insiders have being calling on the countries to tighten laws and regulations on public health and safety, control plastic waste imports, and crack down on illegal smuggling of harmful waste.