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Thailand to Ban Imports of Plastics and E-Waste

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Thailand's Wai Mei Dat center filled with imported e-waste. baselactionnetwork / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Thailand has joined Vietnam and Malaysia in cracking down on the world's trash. Thailand will stop accepting more than 400 types of electronic waste (e-waste), including circuit boards, old TVs and radios, within six months, an environment ministry official told Reuters.

The decision was made Wednesday at a meeting chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister. Imports of plastic waste will also be banned in two years, although specific details of the program are not yet known, Reuters reported.


Southeast Asian countries have been filling a void left by China, which implemented a strict waste import policy earlier this year so it could focus on its own pollution problems. The decision from China—formerly the world's largest importer of waste—left exporting countries scrambling for solutions for their trash. In some U.S. cities, the pile-up has even resulted in recyclables being directly sent to landfills.

Thailand announced the ban after accepting massive amounts of e-waste from the U.S., the European Union, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, according to DW. While electronic scraps can contain valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper, they can also contain harmful components such as lead, mercury and cadmium.

Surasak admitted to The Nation that the ban will impact the country's recycling industry and some business operations. However, he noted, "we need to prioritize good environment and health protection for our citizens before industrial development."

"I have no doubt that the recycling of plastic waste and used electronic parts are profitable businesses at the moment," he added. "Some business operators may make a lot of profit from the recycling industry, but what will the country gain from their prosperity when our environment becomes polluted and the people suffer?"

Thailand is one of the world's top five producers of plastic trash, generating two million metric tons of the waste material each year, according to The Nation.

The country's plastic crisis was underscored this June when a pilot whale washed up dead in southern Thailand after swallowing 17 pounds of mostly plastic bags.

The Thai initiative follows efforts made last month in Vietnam and Malaysia to limit imported trash. Vietnam will no longer issue new licenses for scrap imports, in order to crack down on illegal shipments and increased pollution near processing facilities, Reuters reported in July. The same month, the Malaysian government revoked the import permits of 114 factories that process plastic waste.

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