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New report from Climate Tracker and Break Free from Plastic shines light on media coverage of plastics in Southeast Asia

On June 30, 2021, Climate Tracker and Break Free from Plastic launched a report titled The Plastic Pandemic: Has COVID-19 Shifted the Media Discourse on Plastics in Southeast Asia?, which assessed media coverage of plastics in Southeast Asia before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The report, which is the first of its kind as it delves into the narrative frames used by journalists to communicate the issue of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, draws from an in-depth analysis of media coverage in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines as well as interviews with a total of 43 journalists and media practitioners from the region.  The report found that plastics, which are made from fossil fuels, were rarely discussed in the context of climate change. “Since climate change is one of the threats to long-term stability in Southeast Asia, there is really a need to address the plastics problem with renewed urgency,” said Patricia Valerio, Climate Tracker Research Manager.  “Despite the efforts of Break Free from Plastic Asia Pacific and its members to shift the narrative, more work needs to be done in countering greenwashing and PR stunts of corporations which are geared towards stopgap measures,” added Jed Alegado, Senior Communications Officer for Break Free from Plastic, Asia Pacific. “Clearly, we need to strengthen the link between plastics and climate in the Asia Pacific region.”  Another one of the report’s main findings is that, since media coverage focused on reducing plastic consumption instead of production, there was a heavy focus on individual responsibility and little scrutiny of plastic producers. The increase in plastic waste that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic did not significantly shift this discourse.  “I found the notion that Southeast Asian media coverage is focused on individual responsibility instead of corporate and government accountability most compelling,” said Janssen Calvelo, Break Free from Plastic’s Network Organizer for Southeast Asia, about the report. “It posits that there is still much work to be done in sending the message that unless multinational and large corporations stop plastic production and ASEAN governments implement enabling environment through policies, real and substantial solutions to plastic will not be achieved.”  Journalists across the region also faced multiple challenges in reporting on plastics. For example, in Malaysia, physical safety emerged as a concern among journalists who wanted to conduct investigations on plastic recycling factories. “Freedom of information is important and good for everyone,” said Heng Kiah Chun, Greenpeace Malaysia Campaigner, about the lack of freedom-of-information laws in Malaysia. “Journalists and activists are having a hard time accessing reliable data from the government.”  Still, the report shows that plastics were negatively framed across all Southeast Asian countries studied — an encouraging sign for advocates against plastic use. “The most interesting part of the report is learning that our effort since at least two decades ago to push the narrative against plastic pollution has been successful,” said Rahyang Nusantara, Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement National Coordinator. “In Indonesia itself, 93 percent of media articles framed plastics negatively.”  Journalists who want to deepen their reporting on the problem of plastic pollution are welcome to get in touch with organizations such as Break Free from Plastic and its partners.  “Media practitioners, as well as those who are helping in further professionalizing this noble work, can get help from civil society organizations working on plastic pollution. We can offer collaborations, leads, and help in framing and angles of your story ideas,” Alegado said. “We need to dig deeper into the plastic pollution crisis from production up to disposal as well as its links to other social and environmental justice issues.”  “Plastic pollution does not only impact our environment, but also has long-lasting and well-documented impacts on human rights, climate change, economy, and diplomacy, to name a few,” added Calvelo. “Feel free to reach out to us for more information and case studies.”  Both the full report and an executive summary can be found here. A podcast that gives an overview of country researchers’ perspectives can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, and Stitcher.  For more information, please contact the following:  Jed Alegado Break Free from Plastic Asia Pacific Senior Communications Officer jed@breakfreefromplastic.org  Yvonne Tan Malaysia Researcher yvonnetanyf@gmail.com  Ariel Adimahavira Indonesia Researcher adimahavirariel@gmail.com Kadesiree Thossaphonpaisan Thailand Researcher kade.thoss@gmail.com ĐỗThuỳTrang Vietnam Researcher dotrangplvn@gmail.com  Patricia Valerio Philippines Researcher Climate Tracker Research Manager patricia@climatetracker.org

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Kenya civil society comes together to launch zero plastics coalition

On March 24th the Centre For Environment Justice and Development held a consultative meeting with grassroots organizations and other stakeholders in the waste management sector with support from Break Free From Plastic. The goal of the meeting was to deliberate on the need to form a unified civil society voice to champion plastic pollution reduction and elimination in Kenya. With no space for civil society organizations to come together and advocate with a collective voice for a zero plastic waste Kenya, the group of organizations present at the meeting designed a set of recommendations around safeguarding the rights of the public against plastic and chemical pollution.  Kenya has been a leading force against plastic pollution in Africa. In 2017, the country enacted a protective law against single use plastic which has been cited as a model for many other nations. However, since 2017, the country has faced many challenges in the implementation of the law including among others; illegal imports of plastic bags, poor enforcement of laws, and lobbying against the ban on plastics by the government through the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of the Environment. A total of 24 participants drawn from various civil-society organizations across the country attended the forum. Organizations such as Clean up Kenya, Slums Going Green and Clean, Kenya Safi, African sustainability Network, Strathmore University. James Wakibia, environmental activist and photojournalist championing the ban of single use plastics, was also present at the forum.

The impact

1. The members agreed to form a movement against plastic pollution and named it “CSOs for Zero Plastics in Kenya”

2. The members agreed that advocacy work should target both plastic reduction from upstream (production and; manufacturing as priority and downstream (waste management)

3. The members agreed to bring together all like-minded organizations including faith-based organizations (FBOs), community advocacy groups, youth initiatives, individuals advocating against plastic pollution/campaigners, academia, NGOs, policy-makers, media, and grassroots representation e.g waste pickers to become a part of the coalition.

Key takeaways

1. The platform expects the government to integrate waste pickers in the formal waste management system and recognize their efforts in reviving the circular Economy with formal measures of social protection. 

2. The platform expects the government  to  invest in solutions that  work for people and planet  and that will  help in achieving a zero waste society, economic recovery and job creation in Kenya

3. The platform expects the government to work towards the banning of waste incineration which leads to a green recovery.

4. The platform expects the government to  break Free from plastics  by enacting policies that drastically reduce plastic production and consumption

5. The platform expects the government to put local communities first by ensuring transparency in how projects are implemented and how taxpayer money is used to promote sustainability.

 

Overheard at the meeting

“Recycling is not enough, it's time to rethink how to solve the plastic waste crisis.” 
- Griffins Ochieng, Executive Director at Centre for Environment Justice and Development
“When we started the Africa Is Not a Dumpster campaign our main goal was to request the government not to accept the trade deal that was in place….at that time our voice was weak because we're alone but with the CSO we trust that our voice will be strong.” 
- Kaluki Paul, Co-founder at Kenya Environment Action Network KEAN
“Why do we have a lot of plastics in Kenya and some single materials in our park yet there is a rule banning them entering the park?
- Caroline Kibii, EnviroWild 
“It's time civil society joins hands to lobby and have a seat in policy-making forums to promote a sustainable environment.” 
- Mr. Christopher Murithi, Embulbul Environment Waste Management
“We need a transition to work together and have a strong voice in addressing plastic pollution in Kenya.” 
- Batterman Simidi, Clean Up Kenya
“It's time to involve religious organizations in the fight since they interact with people and have the power to influence them in making right decisions.” 
- John Henry, Africa Nazarene University Thank you to Patricia M Kombo for providing this report. 

 

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Member in the spotlight – Environmental Investigation Agency

Please introduce yourself(-ves) and your organisation? We are six in the Environmental Investigation Agency Ocean Team!

◾ Jennifer Lonsdale , EIA Founder and Senior Ocean Campaigner [Co-founded and has worked at EIA since 1984, UK based], ◾ Clare Perry, Ocean & Climate Campaign Leader  [Worked at EIA for 20 years, Spain based], ◾ Chris Dixon, Deputy Ocean Campaign Lead [Worked at EIA for 2 years, UK based], ◾ Tim Grabiel, Senior Lawyer [Worked at EIA for 10 years, France based], ◾ Tom Gammage, Ocean Campaigner [Worked at EIA for  1.5 years, UK based] ◾ and Lauren Weir, Ocean Campaigner  [Worked at EIA for 7 months, UK based]

Our Ocean work focuses on three threats to the marine environment and biodiversity: plastic pollution, fishing gear, and other threats to marine animals, in particular the commercial exploitation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Specifically when it comes to plastic pollution we work on the issue at the UK, regional (EU) and international level, pushing governments and corporates to catalyse a shift away from our single-use society, phasing out all but the most essential plastics, and campaigning to secure a global treaty on plastic. Why is plastic pollution an important issue for your organisation? What’s the story? EIA has never shied away from investigating and campaigning on difficult environmental issues. It was founded in 1984, exposing the Faroese pilot whale hunt as its first campaign. It quickly evolved into an organisation investigating and campaigning against a wide range of environmental crime and abuse. In the early 1990’s this included successfully persuading the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to study environmental threats to whale populations - like the then recently discovered ‘ozone hole’, climate change, pollution and overfishing.  In 2012 with plastic pollution identified as an increasing threat to cetaceans and the marine environment, EIA committed to working to tackle this threat.  We started researching plastic and other marine debris impacts on cetaceans in 2012, producing a scientific paper for the 64th meeting of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The paper was eventually published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin and helped to initiate a series of marine debris workshops by the IWC. We also started campaigning on EU policy, including the EU Plastic Bags Directive, which was adopted in 2015. Following that the plastic campaign really gained traction when we joined a UK microbeads coalition with Greenpeace, Fauna & Flora International and the Marine Conservation Society, resulting in a UK ban on plastic microbeads in rinse off cosmetic products starting in 2018. Plastics is a hugely urgent, pervasive and complex environmental problem – with some powerful actors involved. It subsequently became an area of focus of our ocean work and one we are very committed to helping resolve.  Tell us more about your ongoing campaign(-s)/activity(-ies)  We have quite a few current workstreams, including: policy development for plastic reduction, pellets, fishing gear, mapping the plastic footprint of grocery retailers in the UK and campaigning for plastic reduction and reuse, agriplastics, plastic waste trade (especially at the EU and UK level), and campaigning for a global plastics treaty. Some recent coverage of our advocacy work with regards to a global plastics treaty can be found in this National Geographic article and this LA Times Op-Ed When did your organisation become a core member of BFFP? What does it mean for your organisation to be part of the BFFP movement? EIA joined Break Free From Plastic very early on and was one of its founding members. Sarah Baulch, previously EIA Oceans, attended the first meeting of the plastic alignment project in Manila in 2016.  The outputs, ambition and impact of the Break Free From Plastic members both individually and collectively is astounding, and being part of the movement has helped expand our reach. Skill, knowledge and data sharing is ultimately what will make this campaign area a success and we are all so happy to be involved. Particularly on our global plastics campaign we really benefit from the national experience from the different members around the globe and exchanging ideas on successful strategies and interventions in policy spaces.  What is the most ridiculous plastic product or packaging that you have seen? Anything non-essential. But some specific examples (thanks to Clare!) include  [caption id="attachment_8975" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]tic tac packaging “Tic Tac-ception”[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_8976" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Micro plastic from a football And given it is the Euros 2020 - micro-plastic from artificial turf in football pitches![/caption]   What do you find shocking in the plastic waste landscape that you think everybody should know about?  One that everyone is probably fully aware of, is the finiteness of plastic recyclability. So many commitments and targets are principally focused on a false solution - the fact that plastic can only be recycled a few times as the waste stream quickly becomes contaminated with unwanted additives and still requires virgin feedstock to maintain polymeric integrity. And that isn’t even accounting for plastic that is designed in such a way that it is non-recyclable!  And European and UK waste colonialism (in the form of irresponsible and harmful plastic waste exports) whilst touting themselves as environmental leaders. Thank you to Christina Dixon of the Environmental Investigation Agency for participating in this interview.  

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EARTH call on the Thai government to Ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, End Toxic Waste Imports

Environmental NGO Ecological Alert Recovery – Thailand (EARTH) submitted letters to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment and the Minister of Industry, calling on the Thai government to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment, which will end the imports of toxic plastic wastes and e-waste into the country and for government agencies to strictly regulate dirty recycling industries that cause pollution.
25th November 2021 – at 10:00, representatives of EARTH led by Mr. Akarapon Teebthaisong, research and technical staff, submitted a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, with Mr. Talerngsak Petchsuwan, the deputy director of the Pollution Control Department, and Mr. Titipan Chuchanchote, Head of the Office of the Minister, representing the minister in accepting the letter. The letter calls on the minister to push the Thai government to ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment. The Ban Amendment prohibits transboundary movement of toxic wastes between countries that ratified it – a move that would ensure an unconditional end to toxic waste imports that have caused pollution in many local communities over the past few years.
At 11:00, representatives of EARTH submitted another letter to the Minister of Industry, with Ms. Suvimol Boonkan, the Ministry’s Plan and Policy Analyst, representing the minister in accepting the letter. The letter demands that relevant agencies under the Ministry of Industry more strictly regulate activities of waste sorting and recycling industries. Without the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment, waste imports have flooded into Thailand where they are managed and recycled by industries with poor records of waste treatment and environmental management. This has made dirty recycling a major source of pollution which has affected local communities in Thailand. In light of this, EARTH demands that the Ministry of Industry impose stricter regulations on waste sorting and recycling industries, and join the calls for the Thai government to ratify the urgently needed Basel Ban Amendment.

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Groups renew calls for stronger environmental protection amid Clean Air Act anniversary

Quezon City, Philippines— Environmental organizations, civil-society groups, faith-based institutions, academe, and community-based organizations are calling on the government for effective and sustainable environmental protection during the anniversary of the passage of the Clean Air Act into law on June 23. The Act prohibits the use of incinerators for waste disposal. The Philippines is the first nation in the world to ban incinerators outright.  In particular, the various groups are calling on the government to drop efforts to legalize garbage incineration through the Waste-to-Energy Act authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. The groups are calling on the government to instead pass long-term, comprehensive waste management policies and safer practices that would reduce waste. Senator Win Gatchalian’s Waste-to-Energy Bill would defeat the purpose of the Clean Air Act and must be junked immediately by the 18th Congress. This proposed bill will only favor big waste management companies who will profit at the expense of taxpayers, local communities, and the environment. We demand that our government officials and lawmakers perform their sworn duties to enforce environmental laws and hold polluters accountable, ” stressed Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition.  “What we need is a strong political will among our leaders and the government’s sincerity in addressing environmental issues such as excessive waste production and disposal. With the current pandemic, there must be a united plan in mitigating these problems by disallowing the funding of dirty energy projects like waste-to-energy incinerators which endanger the health of citizens due to the release of harmful greenhouse gas, and poisonous chemicals such as dioxins and furans,” she further said.                                          In a letter sent to the Senate last month and signed by the groups, they reiterated the need for stricter implementation of environmental laws and the potential harm WTE technologies and facilities pose to human health, communities, and the environment. The government should pursue solutions that genuinely protect and preserve the constitutional rights to health and a balanced and healthful ecology. One key problem with Waste-to-Energy technologies is that they legitimize continued extraction from the environment; while also contributing to climate change, polluting the environment and threatening human health. WtE technologies promote a false narrative that harms efforts to pursue real sustainable solutions aimed at reducing waste production and achieving a circular economy,” said Lievj Alimangohan of No Burn Pilipinas.  “Although several laws were passed together with the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 to protect our communities and the environment, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000; Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990; the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998; and the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, among others, but still these laws are the most notoriously violated and unfunded in our country,” added Rei Panaligan of Plastic-Free Pilipinas Project. They also said there are viable and eco-friendly solutions to address our waste problem without resorting to polluting disposal methods like burning and incineration. WTE facilities do not provide a safe, technologically advanced means of waste disposal but with the Zero Waste approach, barangays have managed to reduce and eliminate waste off our streets and even saved millions of pesos while creating jobs,” said Archie Abellar of GAIA Asia Pacific. “Municipalities and barangays in the country are already practicing zero-waste which is a circular system that minimizes unnecessary extraction and consumption, reduces waste, and ensures that products and materials are reused or recycled back into nature or into the market,” he added. # # # For more information, please contact: Geri Matthew Carretero Communications Officer 09176216901 Plastic-Free Pilipinas Project  The Plastic-Free Pilipinas project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia and Mother Earth Foundation. The #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution.

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Report: Consumer goods companies are missing the mark with false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis

June 22, 2021 ---- Top fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are churning out plastic pollution ‘solution’ projects that do very little to solve the plastic pollution crisis. The Break Free From Plastic global movement has tracked and analysed projects that seven major companies and eight alliances claim are part of their response to plastic pollution. Titled “Missing the Mark: Unveiling Corporate False Solutions to the Plastic Pollution Crisis", the report categorizes 265 corporate projects to determine how much attention companies are giving proven solutions such as reuse, compared to false solutions. Out of a total of 265 projects running from 2018 to April 2021, only 39 were focused on reuse and a total of 226 projects were designated as false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis as defined by experts from the Break Free From Plastic movement. The report analyzed the initiatives of  Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Mars, Inc., Mondelez International, Nestlé, Unilever and Coca-Cola Company, consistent top polluters in the global brand audits conducted by Break Free From Plastic.  “The world’s top polluting companies claim to be tackling plastic pollution, but the evidence for how serious they are is in the numbers. These companies are pursuing false solutions that range from potentially damaging at worst, and simple wishful thinking, at best. What the findings reveal is that only 15% of the projects are proven solutions like reuse, refill, and alternative delivery systems. Instead, these companies are investing in projects that do little to eliminate single-use plastics.” said Emma Priestland, Break Free From Plastic Corporate Campaigns Coordinator.  The report ranked the companies from absolute worst to least worst. It finds that Procter & Gamble is the absolute worst at solving plastic pollution, and Unilever the least worst, but still performing poorly.  Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader Graham Forbes said:  “This report offers yet another example of big brands failing to prioritize reuse and the reduction of throwaway packaging. It is clear that reuse-based alternatives are essential for these companies to remain viable in a climate-safe future and end their contributions to the plastic pollution crisis. Instead of working with the fossil fuel industry to promote false solutions, these companies must end their reliance on single-use plastics and scale-up systems of reuse globally.” Yuyun Ismawati of Nexus3 Foundation in Indonesia and  a member of the expert panel which analyzed the corporations’ initiatives, said: In Asia, we’ve been seeing a lot of these false solutions that these companies and their alliances are peddling. Chemical recycling creates new toxic waste; plastic to fuel or Refuse Derived Fuel is contrary to the circular economy, and plastic offsetting is upsetting because it fails to answer the plastic crisis. These types of initiatives show a lack of ambition and prioritization of alternative product delivery methods. Multinational corporations have more than enough resources to invest in new delivery systems, reuse, refill and redesign, that would allow for a dramatic reduction in the use of single-use plastics. They should change the way of doing business and stop greenwashing.” #ends    CONTACT:  Jed Alegado Senior Communications Officer - Asia Pacific +639176070248 jed@breakfreefromplastic.org  Brett Nadrich Communications Officer - US +1 (929) 269-4480 brett@breakfreefromplastic.org  Lys Mehou-Loko Communications Officer - Europe +31621494684 lys@breakfreefromplastic.org

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Celebrating Black Community Leadership on Juneteenth

Break Free From Plastic works to envision a future free from plastic pollution that advances environmental justice, social justice, and racial justice all together as part of a single, globally-connected Movement for Justice. The plastic pollution crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color, including particular harm that the petrochemical industry does to Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities in the U.S. Earlier this year, UN human rights experts denounced environmental racism in the “Cancer Alley” region of Louisiana with the following historical context: “Originally called Plantation Country where enslaved Africans were forced to labour, the petrochemical corridor along the lower Mississippi River has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected its mostly African American residents to cancer, respiratory diseases and other adverse health effects.” Additionally, the Clean Air Task Force estimates that 1.8 million Latinx people in the U.S. have increased odds of respiratory illness and fertility issues because they live within one-half mile of an oil and gas facility. Many of these companies are extracting and refining fossil fuels in order to make plastic, and generating toxic emissions in the process. Beyond the issues caused by this “upstream” pollution, there are additional challenges around plastic incineration, landfill, and other “downstream” waste in communities of color across the country. We are honored to work together with groups who are protecting their communities from the harmful impacts of plastic at every part of its lifecycle. Today, in recognition of Juneteenth, we are celebrating a few of the many inspiring Black community groups leading this fight in the U.S.  June 19, 1865—known as Juneteenth—marks the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African-Americans following the end of the U.S. Civil War. On June 19, 2020, the BFFP US Coordination Team launched Community Action Micro-Funds for Black Communities on the Frontlines of the Plastic Pollution Crisis. With the support of the Plastic Solutions Fund, we provided $40,000 in micro-funds in 2020 to support local organizations working on protecting Black communities from the impact of plastic pollution. As the U.S. government recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday for the first time this year, we are shining a light on the important work that seven environmental justice groups are doing to protect Black communities from the harms caused by plastic.  In Louisiana, local leaders are working together to advocate for their fellow community members and stop the petrochemical industry. The Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish (CCSJ) recently installed four new air monitoring sensors in collaboration with RISE St. James and other local organizations. This is vital work because St. John the Baptist Parish houses more than 200 refineries, plastic manufacturers, and petrochemical facilities, and the rates of asthma among children are 2.5 times higher there than the national and state averages. With this air monitoring data, CCSJ and RISE St. James are developing informational flyers designed to raise awareness about the sources and risks of local industrial emissions. This project empowers residents to challenge industry-generated messages, participate actively in regulatory permitting processes, and advocate for community-centered solutions as they hold government and industry officials accountable for the harms of plastic pollution. RISE St. James has also hosted community events that bring people together to celebrate their history while advancing their broader campaign to stop Formosa Plastics from building a giant petrochemical complex in St. James Parish, Louisiana. On June 19, 2020, RISE St. James hosted a Juneteenth convocation to honor the lives of their members’ enslaved ancestors who are buried on land where the proposed Formosa Plastics complex has been sited. In October, they also hosted an “All Saints Day Service” to celebrate the lives of their enslaved ancestors at the same gravesites. These events bring community members together to acknowledge the history of racial exploitation, discuss the ongoing prioritization of profits over people, and take action to realize environmental justice.  In New Orleans, The Louisiana League of Conscious Voters has done incredible work on outreach, education and advocacy that enables Black Louisianians to know their rights and advance strategies to prevent the petrochemical industry from passing bills that would create more plastic pollution and decrease corporate accountability.  At the same time, groups in Texas and Illinois are further advocating for change through their local municipalities. The Port Arthur Community Action Network has developed and proposed new City Hall programs to reduce plastic pollution, concentrating on intervening in the state permitting process to target petrochemical facilities directly in order to reduce all forms of pollution and environmental contamination. Meanwhile, after the Chicago Housing Authority canceled its recycling contract without any community input or prior notice, the People for Community Recovery developed a campaign to bring back the community-led recycling program and implement community education projects about the negative effects of plastics in the environment.  Focusing on “downstream” pollution, the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance has installed and maintained floatable plastic trash interceptors within the Proctor Creek tributary and Chattahoochee River Watershed. In addition to collecting debris, this project has also created an opportunity to develop and evaluate measurable recycling and stewardship activities while enabling youth engagement and education on the environmental and public health impacts of plastics. Also in the State of Georgia, the Susie King Taylor Women's Institute and Ecology Center has been advocating for more compostable utensils and drinking products manufactured from biodegradable sources as part of their work pressuring corporations to change their plastic packaging practices and move towards building zero waste communities. Across the United States, these inspiring leaders continue working to protect Black lives and communities from the impacts of plastic pollution and the petrochemical companies that cause this harm. Once again, we raise our voices together with one unified message: Black Lives Matter.

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Environmental NGOs call for hazardous waste exports and “dirty recycling” to end worldwide

BANGKOK/PRAGUE – In recognition of World Environment Day 2021, the NGOs EARTH (1,3) and Arnika (2,3) have called for an end to hazardous waste exports and dirty recycling industries through the universal ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment (4). As the world enters the UN decade of ecosystem restoration, pollution from dirty recycling continues to devastate local environments and health around the world. Without universal ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment, this problem will continue.

After China’s 2018 waste import ban came into effect in January 2018, the amount of plastic scrap and e-waste exported to Thailand increased (5). Recycling processes, especially those related to plastic, have been identified as sources of dangerous pollutants (5). These pollutants could impact on the environment and livelihoods of communities living near recycling plants. In response, civil society organizations mobilized and called for prohibitions and regulation of imports of plastic scrap and e-waste. In August 2018, the Thai government produced a resolution to ban imports of e-waste categorized under the Basel Convention and a plan to phase out imports of general plastic scrap within the next two years.

EARTH conducted a data survey to determine whether the imports of plastic scrap and e-waste have changed with these governmental measures. According to data from the Customs Department, the quantity of plastic scrap – products under Custom Code 3915 (6) – imported into Thailand in 2017 is estimated at 152,737 tons (7). In 2018, after China’s ban, the quantity of plastic scrap imported increased to 552,721 tons (7) (see Table 1 for more information). EARTH found out that the number of new plastic industries that received permits increased to 289, larger than any in the past seven years (usually between 132 and 195 units per year) (8). Not only had the two-year plan to ban imports of plastic scrap not materialized, but in March 2021, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Department of Industrial Works resolved to allow imports of plastic scrap for another six years.

The ban on e-waste came into effect on 15th September 2020, prohibiting 428 types of e-waste. However, this ban leaves out types of e-waste that fall under the custom code 8548 (7). These include parts of machinery and electrical components (9). Since the promulgation of the ban, types of e-waste under the custom code 8548 are still being imported, albeit at a declining rate (7). Aside from this custom code, EARTH finds that the ban contains legal loopholes that allow many more types of e-waste to be imported (10). Under this condition, e-waste imports have continued into 2021 (7).

Between the incomplete e-waste ban and the reluctance to phase out plastic scrap imports, recycling factories in Thailand continue to grow (8). Miroslava Jopkova from the Czech NGO Arnika points to the differences between recycling plants in Thailand and the EU: “Many recycling plants in Thailand do not follow high safety standards like we are used to in Europe. These plants are very often a huge source of emissions of hazardous substances, with poor working conditions.”

Since 2017, EARTH has observed many recycling plants that burn and process metals without precautionary measures and emit airborne contaminants. “Dirty recycling industries have had a devastating impact on the environment and livelihoods in Thailand. On one hand, they have pushed out smaller waste processors and trash collectors, causing financial difficulties for many of them. On the other hand, the improper waste processing methods have caused pollution of the local environment,” explains Akarapon Teebthaisong, Research and Technical Officer from EARTH. “Pollutants such as heavy metals have contaminated the local atmosphere and water sources. Persistent Organic Pollutants such as Dioxins/Furans also pose the threat of long-term contamination of the eco-systems and of the food web, potentially threatening the health of the population on a regional to national level.”

Local communities have not been silent in the face of such threats. Thamonwan Wannapirun, leader of the Tha Than-Ban Song group, has been advocating closure of transnational recycling factories in her community, after their presence and operations led to severe contamination of the local waterway and groundwater wells as well as constant air and noise pollution: “We would like countries around the world to stop exporting their waste to countries with weaker legislation and poorer enforcement standards. Right now, Thailand has become a garbage dumping ground, and local communities like us are suffering from the consequences.”

Thamonwan would like to see countries around the world ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, as a significant step to ending the international trade in hazardous waste and dirty recycling. The amendment’s prohibition of imports and exports of hazardous wastes between member states will close the loopholes and end policies that allowed the continuation of e-waste and plastic scrap imports. “We would like the leaders of nations and industries to think of the masses of people living with the consequences of their actions. Every human deserves clean air, clean water, a clean environment, and a healthy livelihood. Please think of this and join the amendment. This will help the global effort to protect and improve the environment.” The main exporters of e-waste and plastic scrap to Thailand in 2021 and their status regarding the Basel Convention and the ban amendment are listed in Table 2 and Table 3.

Miroslava Jopkova from Arnika states: “When international waste trading and dirty recycling are not properly controlled they have an impact on communities. We urge the Thai government to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment (4), which will allow the prohibition of hazardous wastes in Annexes I, III, VIII, and IX. This failure to act is unfortunately common in other countries in ASEAN and around the world. Without the active commitment of states, international laws such as the Basel Convention (4) have no impact on the global effort to protect the environment. Therefore, as World Environment Day 2021 marks the global community’s entrance into a new decade of ecosystem restoration, we unequivocally call for an end to exports of hazardous wastes and dirty recycling industries through universal ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.”

Table 1: Amount of imports of plastic scrap (HS3915) into Thailand between 2015 and 2021.

Year Amounts (unit: tons)
2015 56,213
2016 69,506
2017 152,737
2018 552,721
2019 323,167
2020 150,807
2021 (January-April) 44,307

The information shown in the table is compiled and organized by EARTH. Source of raw data: Information and Communication Technology Center, Ministry of Commerce with cooperation of the Customs Department. URL: http://tradereport.moc.go.th/TradeThai.aspx.

Table 2: Main exporters of plastic scrap (HS3915) into Thailand in 2021 (January-April).

Exporting Country Amount of plastic scrap (HS3915) (unit: tons) Ratified the Basel Convention Ratified the Ban Amendment
  All countries (37) 44,307    
1 Japan  13,119 Yes No
2 U.S.A.  10,379 No No
3 China  5,177 Yes Yes
4 Hong Kong  2,781 Yes Yes
5 Canada  2,312 Yes No
6 Australia  1,619 Yes No
7 Germany  1,285 Yes Yes
8 Mexico  1,118 Yes No
9 Netherlands  1,052 Yes Yes
10 Spain  863 Yes Yes
11 Malaysia  794 Yes Yes
12 Poland  735 Yes Yes
13 Taiwan  562  No No
14 South Korea  504 Yes No
15 Indonesia  276 Yes Yes
16 Belgium  251 Yes Yes
17 United Kingdom  242 Yes Yes
18 Singapore  240 Yes No
19 Lithuania  132 Yes Yes
20 Myanmar  103 Yes No
17 Other Countries 761

The information shown in the table is compiled and organized by EARTH. Source of raw data: Information and Communication Technology Center, Ministry of Commerce with cooperation of the Customs Department. URL: http://tradereport.moc.go.th/TradeThai.aspx.

Table 3: Main exporters of e-waste (HS8548) into Thailand in 2021 (January-April).

  Exporting Country Amount of e-waste (HS8548) (unit: tons) Ratified the Basel Convention Ratified the Ban Amendment
  All countries (39) 13,562    
1 U.S.A.  10,856 No No
2 China  949 Yes Yes
3 Japan  898 Yes No
4 Belgium  276 Yes Yes
5 France  214 Yes Yes
6 United Kingdom  100 Yes Yes
7 Canada  85 Yes No
8 South Korea  75 Yes No
9 Myanmar  34 Yes No
10 Italy  27 Yes Yes
11 Hong Kong  11 Yes Yes
12 Vietnam  10 Yes No
13 Taiwan  6  No No
14 India  5 Yes No
15 Poland  5 Yes Yes
16 Malaysia  3 Yes Yes
17 Czech Republic  3 Yes Yes
18 Indonesia  1 Yes Yes
19 New Zealand  1 Yes No
20 Slovakia 1 Yes Yes
19 Other Countries 3

The Information shown in the table is compiled and organized by EARTH. Source of raw data: Information and Communication Technology Center, Ministry of Commerce with cooperation of the Customs Department. URL: http://tradereport.moc.go.th/TradeThai.aspx.

For more information please contact:

EARTH | Akarapon Teebthaisong – Research and Technical Officer: akarapon.t@earththailand.org, www.earththailand.org/en

Arnika | Miroslava Jopková – coordinator of the project: miroslava.jopkova@arnika.org, 

Arnika | Markéta Dosoudilová – international PR: marketa.dosoudilova@arnika.org

www.arnika.org/en