Plastic Waste Trade Watch
December 2021
This is the latest edition of the Plastic Waste Trade Watch, a monthly review of information from around the world on the international trade in plastic waste. It is produced by Basel Action Network's (BAN) Plastic Waste Transparency Project, which conducts campaigns, networking, research, and statistical analysis of the trade in plastic waste. The project publishes this newsletter summary each month and also maintains the Plastic Waste Transparency Hub website, which serves as an overall clearinghouse for News, Data, Campaigns, and Resources.

To join or sign up new members to the Plastic Waste Trade Watch, click here.
Photo of the Month
Thailand - A Thai man fills his truck with plastic waste to sell. Thai waste workers known as selang are protesting to demand the government to ban waste imports immediately to stop the flood of waste into their country, which in turn drives down prices of the waste they collect. Photograph: Luke Digglesby / China Dialogue
Trade Data Summary
Plastic waste export data from government trade datasets for 2021 is not expected to be published in full until late March 2022. We will post comprehensive charts at that time.
The Basel Plastic Waste Amendments enacted on January 1, 2021 were designed to reduce the flows of dirty and mixed plastic wastes, in particular to developing countries. 
OECD countries, in general, continue to flood non-OECD countries with plastic waste. Portion (%) of 2021 (through October) plastic waste exported to non-OECD countries: Japan (90%), U.S. (47%), and E.U. (44% - through August).
Plastic waste exports to Turkey are increasing:
  • German exports to Turkey fell from 19.5 million kg/month in March 2021 to a low of 1.2 million kg/month in July 2021. Exports surged to 10.9 million kg/month in October 2021.
  • U.K. exports to Turkey fell from 30.3 million kg/month in February 2021 to 0.47 million kg/month in July 2021. Increased to 2.2 million kg in October 2021.

Japan has significantly increased plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries from 22 million kg/month in January 2021 to 52.3 million kg/month in October 2021.
U.S. plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries were 18.4 million kg in Oct 2021 (the 2020 average was 28.5 million kg/month). Plastic waste exports to Mexico remained high in Oct 2021 at 9.1 million kg/month (2020 average was 5.3 million kg/month).  
Data Charts of the Month
More detailed plastic waste trade information is available in the data section of the Hub
Basel Implementation News
The Basel Convention's 2019 Plastic Waste Amendments utilize the terms "almost free from contamination" as one criterion for whether the plastic waste shipment will be uncontrolled. This term has not been given an international quantitative value, leaving the Parties to define it on a national basis. The following are known levels adopted by certain countries to date. If readers know of other country interpretations, please let us know.
Quotation of the Month
“If the problem is not an internal Turkish enforcement problem, the German authorities, as well as the German company voluntarily, are willing to take back this waste in accordance with the law. However, this requires the corresponding cooperation and information from the Turkish side.”
-- Angela Griesbach, a spokesperson for the waste management authority in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, in a statement regarding their commitment to taking the containers filled with German waste back at cost as long as the Turkish authorities cooperate. Will such cooperation be forthcoming from the Erdogan Administration?
Graphic of the Month
Figure from ‘Waste colonialism’: world grapples with west’s unwanted plastic showing the story of 141 shipping containers of plastic exported from Germany to Turkey.
Videos of the Month
Top Stories
Greek officials intervene, export of German plastic waste stopped
Spurred by a letter signed by several NGOs, Greek officials have stopped 37 containers in the port of Piraeus from being shipped to Vietnam. The material had been sitting in Turkish ports for almost a year after officials there denied it entry after they determined the shipments that originated in Germany to be illegal. The waste was sent to be recycled by the company 2BPlast, which had lost their Turkish and German recycling licenses. In an effort to recoup their loss, they attempted to send 218 of the containers to Turkish cement works for incineration, which Turkish officials disallowed. Turkish officials then tried to repatriate the shipments to Germany, but German officials refused. However, since the shipments were blocked in Greece, German officials have changed their tune, saying that they are willing to take back the waste with Turkish cooperation and information.
Thai saleng protest, demand import ban
Thai waste collectors, known colloquially as saleng, have demanded their voices be heard regarding proposed waste import bans by the Thai government. During an online meeting of government officials and other parties involved in waste import discussing options to ban plastic waste imports, representatives of the saleng and other NGOs were one by one removed from the meeting after they introduced themselves due to the opposition of their presence. These workers have suffered greatly after Thailand was inundated with the world’s waste following China’s import ban in 2018, and the influx of foreign waste drove prices down in the country. The Thai government is weighing options between an immediate cancellation of all agreed imports or a ban in beginning in either 2023 or 2025.
Key Campaign Updates
Icelandic plastic waste exported in 2016 is still unrecycled
Approximately 1,500 tonnes of plastic waste from Iceland exported in 2016 remain in a run-down warehouse in Päryd, in the south of Sweden. Official reports claimed that the waste had been recycled and disposed of in an environmentally sound way, but this news calls into question the waste streams being utilized by Icelandic recycling companies. Swerec, the company who bought the waste from Iceland, sold a portion of the waste to another company that has since gone under, leading to this waste still sitting in a warehouse.
Malaysia still feeling effects of imported plastics
Despite Malaysia’s current requirements of 0% non-recyclable contaminants for plastic waste imports, the country is still grappling with the huge amounts of waste imported in 2018 and 2019 after waste inundated the country following China’s ban. Baled waste from that period still sits in warehouses and dumps, abandoned after it was found too dirty to recycle, owners cut and run, or nearby illegal factories shut down, leaving nowhere for the waste to go. In one example, a landowner seeded a field with grass, growing thigh-high and covering plastic with Spanish instruction printed on it. The responsibility for the waste now rests with local councils, which often are powerless to do so, as they are also unable to afford the high clean-up costs which caused it to be abandoned in the first place. 
Opinion of the Month
New Resources
-- Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste – Report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine
Plastic Waste Transparency Project