Thailand announces total ban on plastic waste imports by 2025 to “protect country”
19 Sep 2022 --- Thailand will enforce a total ban on plastic scrap imports by 2025 in a three-stage plan. The nation’s intention to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries has been discussed since 2020, according to natural resources and environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa, who has deemed the move necessary, saying “we need to protect our country.”
“Thailand must not be a dump site for plastic waste. By the end of the next three years, we will not allow any import of plastic scraps from around the world,” he says.
The ban is a part of a greater plastic reduction movement in Thailand, with other measures being set for the future.
It is unclear what effect a total ban on scrap plastic will have on the plastic packaging industry. How it will affect production and what cost it will bring, is still unknown. However, looking to other countries that have successfully banned plastic waste imports can give insight.
The three phases
The ban will not all be struck down at once but instead carried out in phases over three years, ending with a total ban in 2025.
The first phase will begin in 2023. Thailand will limit the amount of imported plastic scrap based on actual production capacities. They will measure the needs of 14 significant plants in free trade zones and restrict imports to only what they can use in production.
The second phase will only allow 50% of plastic debris imports, starting in 2024. Other imports to the waste plants outside of the free trade zones must be approved by the subcommittee on plastic and electronic waste management.
The third and final phase is a complete ban on all imports of plastic scraps in 2025.
“This [the three phases plan] is a significant step to make our country clean from plastic waste,” asserts Silpa-archa.
The subcommittee comprises stakeholders in the industrial sector that use raw materials, including plastic scrap dumped by other countries.
The panel has agreed that 14 plants located in free trade zones would be able to import plastic scrap until 2024 in two phases.
This ban is a part of a larger-scale project from the Department of Pollution Control in Thailand. They are set to draft a 2023 to 2027 plastic waste management plan, focusing on four key areas, including removing plastic waste from landfills for recycling by 2027.
Silpa-archa claims that the country produces 24.98 million metric tons of household waste annually, and only 32% is managed correctly. Thailand has stated that it is committed to reducing the use of single-use plastic in the future.
“This is a significant step to make our country clean from plastic waste,” says Silpa-archa regarding the ban.
An international challenge
Turkey officially banned plastic waste imports in July 2021 due to discovering British recycling on beaches, roadsides, waterways and in illegal waste mountains. Yet, after only eight days of the ban being in place, it was revoked and replaced with regulations on only PE plastic imports from the UK instead.
Turkey saw an increase in packaging trash from Britain as a result of China’s previous ban on plastic scrap imports.
China banned foreign imports of 24 kinds of solid waste at the end of 2017. Before that, it was the largest importer of waste plastics, importing 100 million metric tons between 2000 and 2017. China decided on the ban due to increased industrialization and demand for raw materials growing, with the supply of domestic waste plastic materials not meeting market demand.
At the time of the ban, an estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste would be displaced by the new Chinese policy by 2030. The US rerouted most of its waste shipments from China to Southeast Asian nations such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. However, Thailand will no longer be on that list.
In January 2021, the EU banned the export of plastic waste from the EU to non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, except for clean plastic waste for recycling. “The new rules should end the export of plastic waste to third countries that often do not have the capacity and standards to manage it sustainably,” stated the EU.
If more countries continue to ban plastic waste imports, it is unclear where the displaced trash will end up and what means should be taken to dispose of or reuse the plastic appropriately.
By Sabine Waldeck
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