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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Southeast Asian Countries Reject the West’s Trash


For years the United States and other Western countries sold millions of tons of used soda bottles, juice containers, shampoo bottles, and other plastics to be recycled into new products in China. At the end of 2018, China halted their imports of recyclables, creating a crisis for many Western countries. Often included in the shipments were western trash that could not be recycled. With cheap labor and relaxed environmental regulation, many of these factory owners moved shop to the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Some of the new recycling factories had authorized permits however many did not. Most of these transactions were private commercial transactions without the government’s consent. The factory owners did not have to pay to, “properly” dispose, of the trash that could not be recycled. Instead they would burn or dump the unrecyclable material. The incorrect disposal methods really took a toll on the communities and wildlife that were near the factories. Local communities took to the internet to complain and show the pollution that was happening.

As the South East Asian countries realized what was going on, they united to reject the imports of the West’s trash into their county. Many South East Asian countries are in the process of sending back thousands of tons of trash to various Western nations. After many years of pressure, Canada finally agreed to take back trash that they incorrectly labeled as plastic scraps that was sent to the Philippines. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte said concerning the trash, “I will declare war against them. I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to. Your garbage is coming home”. Canada agreed to take the trash back.

In an effort to address the plastic crisis, 180 nations met in Geneva and agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates the movement and disposal of hazardous materials. The United States is one of two nations who have not yet ratified the treaty. As these South East Asian countries continue to ban the shipment of recyclables to their nation, more and more of the recyclables will end up back in the dumps of the country of origin. A Guardian investigation reported that many US cities are no longer recycling many types of plastics, instead they are being put in the landfills.


McCormick, Erin, Charlotte Simmonds, Jessica Glenza, and Katharine Gammon. 2019. “Americans’ Plastic Recycling Is Dumped in Landfills, Investigation Shows.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. June 21.

Picheta, Rob. 2019. “187 Countries — Not Including the US — Agree to Restrict Global Plastic Waste Trade.” CNN. Cable News Network. May 11.

“Plastic Recycling Is Broken. Here’s How to Fix It.” 2018. National Geographic. National Geographic Society. June 20.

“South-East Asian Countries Are Banning Imports of Waste for Recycling.” 2019. The Economist. The Economist Newspaper. June 15.

“Southeast Asian Nations Vow to Combat Plastic Debris in Oceans.” 2019. Dhaka Tribune. June 22.

“West Turned Asia into World’s Dumping Ground. Here’s How It’s Fighting Back.” 2019. South China Morning Post. July 13.