Protesters urge Asean to ban trash imports

Greenpeace activists in Thailand staging a protest in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, where they dumped plastic waste and held placards calling for an end to all trash imports to South-east Asia. After China's decision last year
Greenpeace activists in Thailand staging a protest in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, where they dumped plastic waste and held placards calling for an end to all trash imports to South-east Asia. After China's decision last year to stop importing recyclables from abroad, countries in Asean now receive more than a quarter of global plastic waste.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK • Protesters in Bangkok yesterday dumped plastic waste in front of a government building and called on South-east Asian leaders to ban imports of trash from developed countries.

The protest comes ahead of a weekend meeting of the 10-member Asean, with many countries struggling to deal with the flood of plastic waste unleashed by China's decision last year to stop importing recyclables from abroad.

Countries in Asean now receive more than a quarter of global plastic waste, most of which comes from developed economies like Canada, the United States, Australia and Japan.

A group of about 50 Thai activists, some holding placards reading "No Space For Waste", joined Greenpeace campaigners to call for an end to all trash imports to South-east Asia.

Mr Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace Thailand said: "The communities are here today to reclaim... the right to live in a sustainable environment in Thailand."

They called for Asean countries to ban the export of waste "from anywhere in the world into the region", Mr Tara said.

The trash pile-up in South-east Asia accelerated after China stopped accepting waste last year and Greenpeace says plastic refuse imports have increased by a staggering 171 per cent since 2016.

 
 
 

The imported waste is supposed to be recycled, but sometimes arrives mixed with unrecyclable items or is improperly handled and ends up being burnt or leaked into waterways and the sea.

The issue has been in the headlines recently after the Philippines sent a huge shipment of garbage back to Canada, sparking a diplomatic row. And last week, Indonesia returned five containers of rubbish to the US, saying it refused to be a "dumping ground".

Thailand currently imports waste from scores of countries, with much of it ending up in landfills and waste disposal facilities that have prompted complaints of pollution from its residents.

The Asean summit, which kicks off tomorrow with a foreign ministers meeting, has not put the waste issue on its agenda. But discussions will have as a "priority" the issue of marine waste because it affects "the food chain of people worldwide", Thai government spokes-man Werachon Sukondhapatipak said on Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2019, with the headline 'Protesters urge Asean to ban trash imports'. Print Edition | Subscribe