NEW DESTINATIONS BEGIN IMPOSING BANS

Goldman Prize Winner and GAIA partner Prigi Arisandi of the Brantas River Coalition. Wastewater from the plastic and paper recycling factories around Surabaya, Indonesia are polluting the river, which supplies drinking water to 5 million people in the area. Photo courtesy of Ecoton.
Goldman Prize Winner and GAIA partner Prigi Arisandi of the Brantas River Coalition. Wastewater from the plastic and paper recycling factories around Surabaya, Indonesia are polluting the river, which supplies drinking water to 5 million people in the area. Photo courtesy of Ecoton.

Importing countries, recognizing the devastation that the plastic waste trade has caused for their people and environment, have followed China’s lead to enact bans and restrictions of their own.

Timeline of bans/restrictions

July 2017 China sends notice to the World Trade Organization that it will crack down on plastic scrap imports
January 2018 “National Sword” takes effect, China begins enforcing plastic scrap restrictions
March 2018 China announces that it will impose a more rigorous contamination standard for imports of 0.05%, down from 1.5%
April 2018 Thailand imposes a temporary ban on plastic scrap
May 2018 Thailand lifts temporary ban on plastic scrap

Malaysia temporarily stops issuing permits to import plastic scrap
June 2018Malaysia resumes issuing plastic scrap permits
July 2018Vietnam says it will stop issuing new licenses for waste imports and crack down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal
July 2018China announces that it will ban all imports of “solid waste” by the end of 2019
August 2018Malaysia announces three-month freeze on issuing plastic waste permit

Thailand announces an e-waste ban: it will ban imports of 432 types of scrap electronics and will take effect within 6 months
October 2018Malaysia announces that it will take steps to limit the import of plastic waste and phase out imports of other types of plastic scrap (including “clean” plastic) within 3 years

Thailand announces that it will permanently ban plastic imports by 2021
November 2018 Indonesian Industry Minister sends a letter to environment minister requesting that they lift the ban on importing plastic. Indonesia currently has a blanket ban on importing waste but not definitive rule on recyclable plastic, as well as lax customs inspections so plastic waste enters with shipments marked as recycling, or as mixed paper recycling
March 2019India announces that it will ban all plastic scrap imports
April 2019Vietnamese officials announce that they will bar all imports of plastic scrap by 2025

BEYOND SOUTHEAST ASIA

Following the bans and restrictions in Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and India, imports to those countries dropped, according to research by Greenpeace East Asia1. However, the patchwork nature of individual country bans means that plastic waste flows shifted to other countries, including Indonesia and Turkey.

Furthermore, after steep drops after the bans, data in the last quarter of 2018 suggests that imports in Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan are beginning to tick up again. Maintaining the bans in the absence of international regulation in the plastic waste trade requires vigilant enforcement.

READ MORE STORIES IN OUR REPORT (PDF 5MB)
  1. Greenpeace East Asia’s analysis “Data from the global plastic waste trade 2016-2018 and the offshore impact of China’s foreign waste import ban”