Argentina Says It’s Willing To Be The ‘Sacrificial Country’ For The World’s Plastic Waste

A recent move by the government of Argentina could make it the new dumping ground for plastic waste from around the planet, and many in the South American nation are saying they have no desire to become the world’s landfill, according to The Guardian:

“Argentina has changed its definition of waste in a move that could allow it to import millions of tonnes of plastic waste discarded in the US.

The country’s president, Mauricio Macri, signed a decree in August reclassifying some materials destined for recycling as commodities instead of waste, allowing looser oversight of mixed and contaminated plastic scraps that are difficult to process, and are often dumped or incinerated.”

Environmental groups, however, say Macri’s decree is illegal and noted that they’re worried it could be the first step in making the country a dumping ground for the world’s plastic which is now flooding into developed nations since China stopped accepting shipments of plastic waste in 2017:

“Jim Puckett, the executive director of the Basel Action Network, a group that fights the export of toxic waste from industrialized societies to developing nations, said: ‘They’re willing to become a sacrificial country where the rest of the world could send their waste and they could profit from it.'”

The decree from President Macri is an attempt to get around an amendment to the Basel Convention, proposed by Norway, which says developed countries cannot “export low-quality plastic waste to developing nations without getting their explicit consent and ensuring the waste can be appropriately handled.”

Argentina is already struggling with its own waste, according to Cecilia Allen, an advocate with Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, who warned that plastic waste imported by the country likely won’t be recycled:

“We have a lot of waste here and we are not reducing, we are not recycling, we are not composting. And it makes no sense for us to open the door for more to come.”

Alejandra Acosta, an environmental official for the government of Argentina says opponents of the plan misunderstand it:

“She acknowledged the government did not do enough outreach with advocates and argued that no mixed plastics or plastics destined for ‘final disposal’ or ‘energy recovery’ via incineration would be allowed.”

But Raúl Montenegro from FUNAM (Environmental Defence Foundation) and the Anti-Incinerator Citizens Coalition of Argentina made it clear he wasn’t buying that explanation:

“This decree that turns Argentina into the world’s dump is issued in a very significant international context. When countries such as China, Malaysia and Indonesia are closing their borders to plastic waste, and United States needs new places to export its trash, President Macri approves decree 591 that allows the import of this trash.”

Even Carolina Palacio, a representative for the Argentinian waste pickers federation, says her group is opposed to the move by the Argentinian government:

“The decree, if retained, also puts at risk the jobs of 150,000 informal recyclers who work nationwide and are the largest suppliers of Argentina’s recycling industry. If waste imports encourage incineration, it is hard to imagine how the recycling industry will survive. In addition, most of the recyclables produced domestically are either recycled by the colleagues who work in dumps or landfills or wasted due to lack of governmental support to recycling. Instead of importing waste we should be recycling the materials we produce here.”

Argentinian lawyers, recyclers, and environmental activists have filed a motion to repeal the decree on the grounds that it violates Article 41 of Argentina’s constitution which guarantees environmental protection and bans toxic waste imports.


Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons 

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Andrew Bradford

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