Mar 23, 2019 | Updated: 12:48 PM EDT

Import of Plastic Waste Now Banned in India

Mar 16, 2019 07:18 AM EDT

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Early Morning Walk in India
(Photo : Prashanth Pinha)

Some countries deal with their solid waste by letting another country manage it for them. In a sense, the countries that accept these bales of garbage are importing another country's solid waste. This has been the practice for many years that have passed. That is until last year when China closed its doors and banned all imports of foreign plastic waste.

Now, it is India's turn to take the same step. Starting March 1, all imports of foreign solid plastic waste and scrap is banned in the country. India has a goal to phase out all single-use plastic materials by 2020 and this move will help them reach their goal. They have also given emphasis to the fact that there is a gap between waste generation and their recycling capacity and bridging this gap is also one purpose that banning plastic imports can serve. To explain, for the 26,000 tons of plastic that the country produces every day, about 40% of it remains uncollected and unrecycled. This inadequacy means that the country cannot take in more plastic waste materials and it makes sense to turn away more supply of plastic waste.

India picked up the slack that China's ban has imposed. Now that India has banned plastic waste import into their country as well, the slack on the foreign plastic haul would be picked up by the less regulated countries. These are most likely countries from Southeast Asia which includes Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. According to a report, Thailand is experiencing a drastic increase in the haul of plastic waste of up to 50 folds, while Malaysia is importing three times the amount of trash and Vietnam by 50%.

The Western countries have been used to shipping off their plastic waste to other countries. As two of their main options have closed, environmentalist groups are concerned that these countries are yet to learn the management of their own waste. The short-term solution to ship out waste materials is nearly closing its window. Even if Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam still welcome the plastic imports, it would be a matter of time before these countries close their doors as well.

Some speculate that the United States, Europe, and Canada will not adapt a new system for packaging or a new attitude towards plastic until there are no longer options available. Further explaining, the environmentalist group stated in a report that the unsustainable cycle will only stop when they are forced to live with their trash.

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