Cambodia returning 1,600 tons of plastic waste to the U.S. and Canada

The nation of Cambodia says it’s had enough and is sick and tired of being a dumping ground for the Western world’s trash and plastic waste.

CNN reports that Cambodia is the latest Asian country to tell the developed world to find a way to dispose of their garbage without polluting poorer nations:

“Cambodian officials announced Wednesday that they were sending 1,600 tonnes of trash back to their source — the United States and Canada.

“A total of 83 shipping containers of plastic waste were found on Tuesday at the major southwestern port of Sihanoukville, said Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State and Spokesman to the Ministry of Environment.
“The containers, opened by customs and excise officials, were labeled as “recyclable products” with no labels of plastic waste, said Pheaktra.”
Cambodian government officials are uncertain how the plastic containers wound up in their country:
“The customs ministry is now conducting an investigation into how the containers ended up in Cambodia, and which companies or groups are behind the import. If discovered, they would be fined and brought to court, Pheaktra said. Meanwhile, the federal government will begin the process of sending back the trash to the US and Canada.
“‘Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,’ said Pheaktra.”
Asian nations have increasingly said they will no longer accept waste from the West.
Just last year, China banned the import of all plastic waste. The move resulted in companies looking for new locations to dump their trash. That led to Malaysia and the Philippines becoming the favorite destinations for plastic and other waste materials.
In May, however, Malaysia sent back 450 tons of plastic to the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, Japan, and the Netherlands, saying they had no interest in being bombarded with trash from around the world.
All of this has resulted in creating a new industry of fake plastic recyclers:
“In Malaysia earlier this year, a government crackdown found at least 148 unlicensed recycling factories that pollute local communities with toxic fumes and contaminate bodies of water.
“In response, governments are trying to crackdown and stem the inflow of trash. Earlier this year, the Philippines and Canada engaged in a drawn out diplomatic row over the issue of imported trash, growing so heated that Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte recalled his ambassador to Ottawa — before Canada agreed to take back 2,450 tons of trash in May.”
Worldwide, 9.1 billion tons of plastic waste have been produced since the 1950s, but only around nine percent of it has been recycled, Greenpeace says. As much as 14 million tons ends up in the oceans each year.
The solution to the problem is to stop producing and disposing of so much plastic material, but most countries have yet to accept that as a a a viable alternative. Soon, however, they may have no choice unless they want to be overrun with plastic waste that no other country will accept.

Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons

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Andrew Bradford

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