DENR Urged to Ban Plastic Waste Importation to Prevent Dumping and Pollution (Government should act now to stop influx of plastic waste imports before it's too late, says EcoWaste Coalition)

The waste and pollution watch group, EcoWaste Coalition, urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into banning plastic waste importation in light of the Canadian and Korean garbage dumping incidents.

“We request DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to impose tough measures that will prevent discarded plastics that could no longer enter China from being diverted into the Philippines due to loopholes in existing regulations,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“With the ban on plastic waste imports in effect in China since 2018, we are seeing increased waste exports from South Korea to the Philippines,” she warned.

Lucero cited data from the Korea Customs Service published in November last year indicating that 2017 waste exports from South Korea to Philippines rose from 4,398 tons to 11,588 tons after China closed the door for plastic waste and other waste imports from overseas.   Waste exports from South Korea to Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan also increased.   On the other hand, South Korea’s waste exports to China dropped from 119,575 tons in 2017 to 9,379 tons in 2018.

“Waste traders from industrialized countries are frantically looking for places with lenient regulations where their plastic waste can be shipped  for so-called ‘recycling’ like what we have seen in the controversial plastic garbage shipments from Canada and South Korea.  We need to take action now, like what Malaysia and Vietnam did, before it’s too late,” Lucero added.     

According to news reports, Vietnam stopped issuing plastic waste import licenses in July 2017. Their waste imports went from 2,000 – 5,000 tons per month to 300 – 400 tons per month.  Malaysia made the same move reducing their plastic waste imports from 1,000 to 2,000 tons per month in 2017 to 56 tons in 2018.   Malaysia last October 2018 also announced its plan to phase out imports of all plastic wastes in three years.

The EcoWaste Coalition is definitely not the lone voice calling for preventive action to stop the influx of plastic waste imports into the Philippines.

At the ceremonial send-off rites last Sunday for the 51 containers of illegal garbage exports from South Korea, Rep. Juliette Uy (Second District, Misamis Oriental) conveyed her support for “stringent policies” to deter plastic waste dumping into the country.

“We need to adopt new stringent policies to prevent the importation of plastic and other types of waste since we do not want our province and our whole country for that matter to become a global garbage dump,” she told the crowd assembled at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT).

MICT Port Collector John Simon also signified the need for “stringent policy measures” to protect the country from plastic wastes and pollutants.

“It’s our shared responsibility to proactively prevent plastic wastes, which often come unsorted and contaminated with hazardous materials, from entering our ports.  Stringent policy measures should be adopted, including banning the importation of waste plastics, which should be treated at source and not sent to developing counties like ours,” he said.

Zero waste advocate Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, agreed with Simon: "We should send a clear message to waste traders and traffickers that our country is not a dumping ground for the world's trash.  Disallowing plastic waste importation will compel governments and industries to think of innovative ways to prevent the creation of garbage and ensure their environmentally-sound management at the country of generation."

In July 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intent to prohibit the importation of scrap plastics by the end of December 2017 “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health.”

According to the notification sent by the MEP to the WTO, “large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials… pollut(ing) the environment seriously.”

“To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid waste list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted,” the MEP said.

The import ban applies to 24 waste categories, including eight types of post-consumer plastic scrap materials.

“We hope DENR will follow suit and ban plastic waste importation to safeguard human health and the environment,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.