The Basel Action Network (BAN) has warned South and Southeast Asian nations that they will become the next, after Thailand, to be hit by a tidal wave of electronic and plastic wastes from North America and Europe, if they don't move to ban the import of such wastes by ratifying an international agreement called the Basel Ban Amendment. The Ban Amendment would amend the existing Basel Convention, now agreed by 194 countries, to make it illegal to export hazardous wastes such as electronic wastes (e-waste) for any reason from developed countries of the OECD and EU blocs to developing countries.
The BAN warning follows the dramatic decision by China to block imports of waste as of the beginning of 2018 with the advent of the "National Sword" policy. Even before this groundbreaking decision, Chinese waste traders, facing increasing import restrictions, moved their polluting operations South to poorer, smaller countries in Asia such as Thailand. In the past month, Thailand, following an initial raid at the Wai Mei Dat company, has now found their rural lands to be overrun with perhaps hundreds of illegal and highly polluting electronic waste processing yards that risk contamination of the food and water supply in the country.
Following the initial raid, BAN revealed its own findings of Thai e-waste junkyards spewing pollution throughout the countryside. Meanwhile the US, Canada, and European countries continue to produce the same volumes of waste and have shown little willingness, nor, at times, the infrastructure to deal with it at home rather than find new destinations for it. BAN has been using GPS devices to track the flows of e-waste from the US, Canada, and Europe. They have shown that 40% of e-waste handed over to recyclers were exported -- most to Asia. BAN has found tracked devices arriving in Hong Kong, and increasingly to Thailand and to Pakistan. According to BAN, the waste will flow on a path of least legal resistance. Thus, it is time for all of Asia to legislate do the same as China and bar the import of waste.
"The developed countries have been dumping their wastes for years on China and finally China has made the calculus that the short-term economic gains from waste trade are far outweighed by the long-term negative environmental and health impacts," said Jim Puckett, Director of the Basel Action Network, which has been tracking waste flows for two decades. "It is vital that all Asian countries likewise slam their doors shut to a free-trade in hazardous wastes to protect their territory."
According to BAN, the international UN treaty known as the Basel Convention calls for all countries to be self-sufficient in waste management and avoid exporting them. Indeed, the Convention in 1995 adopted the Basel Ban Amendment to protect developing countries from wastes exported from more affluent countries. So far, in the region, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have ratified the agreement, but Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have not. It is especially ironic that while the Thai government is rightly very concerned about the dumping on their territory, they have not make a move as yet to ratify the Ban Amendment. The Ban Amendment is but three ratifications short of going into the force of international law.
"Every country in the Asian region should ratify the Ban Amendment and implement the ban into national law as a matter of urgency," Puckett said. "This action will not only protect their own countries from the unsustainable waste trade tsunami, but will help the entire world as well, as it will ensure that the Amendment enters into the force of international law."