Plastic Waste Trade Watch
July 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
The plastic in our river, Indonesia - Fishing in the Brantas river of the East Java province, Indonesia, means going through loads of plastic trash, discarded by the residents of thousands of buildings. Photo by Fully Syafi Handoko (Indonesia), part of "In Images: Plastic is Forever", an online photo exhibition organized by the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Partnership, with the support of the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS) under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Geneva Environment Network, and the City of Geneva.
Trade Summary Data
The Basel Plastic Waste Amendments were enacted on January 1, 2021.

The E.U., U.K., Japan, and Canada initially reduced plastic waste exports to non-OECD countries in January 2021.

E.U. and Japan plastic waste exports to non-OECD have been steadily increasing:

  • E.U. increased from 30.0 million kg/month in January 2021 to 37.2 million/month in April 2021.

  • Japan increased from 22 million kg/month in January 2021 to 56.1 million/month in April 2021.

U.S. continued high level of plastic waste exports to non-OECD Countries at 25.7 million kg in April 2021 (2020 average was 28.5 million kg/month).

OECD Countries continue to flood non-OECD Countries with plastic waste. Portion (%) of 2021 plastic waste exported to non-OECD countries: Japan (89%), U.S. (51%), and E.U. (35%).

More detailed plastic waste trade information is available in the data section of the Hub
Data Charts of the Month
Quotation of the Month
“However, what we have never supported – and will never support – are bans that include commodity-grade recyclable materials that are part of the global manufacturing supply chain. That is why, to date, we have not supported U.S. ratification of the Basel Convention."

-- Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) President Robin Wiener, continuing to assert ISRI's opposition to one of the world's most respected environment treaties (only 8 countries including the U.S. are not Party to the Basel Convention).  
Graphic of the Month
By Rich Williams, appearing as part of the article by Don Loepp entitled Science magazine calls for a binding global agreement to phase out most resin production
Video of the Month
Top Stories
Australia’s mixed plastic export ban kicks in
Australia's Stage 1 ban on exporting mixed plastic waste came into full effect on July 1, 2021 with some mixed feelings from those in Australia's waste trade. Canberra-area recyclers are set to become national leaders, with high recycling rates in the ACT and excess capacity for domestic plastic waste, while other areas may fall behind due to their lower recycling capacity. There are also concerns that recyclers will turn to Refuse Derived Fuel to dispose of excess plastic waste which will result in toxic emissions, ash, and high intensity carbon releases, which the recycling multinational Visy prefers to call "clean energy". Australia plans to ban unmixed plastic waste in July 2022. 

Report finds eggs poisoned by plastic waste
A report produced by IPEN and Arnika found eggs from chickens raised near plastic waste dumps and recycling centers contain unsafe levels of toxic chemicals leached from plastics, endangering those that consume them. Examining 25 sites in 14 low- and middle-income countries, it found that eggs uniquely accumulate persistent organic pollutants from the hens that lay them, which have picked food, worms and insects from the contaminated soil and dirt. These sites are located in countries known to accept imported plastic waste, particularly from the U.S. and other nations whose waste systems rely on exports.

Plastic hitching a ride into India on paper waste imports
Contaminated paper waste has become a huge source of plastic waste entering India and other countries. Paper waste imports have surged in India to 6.4 million kilograms in 2020-21, bringing with it at least a hundred thousand tonnes of non-recyclable plastic, which is then incinerated or dumped. India and other countries have passed further restrictions on contamination levels of paper imports, but implementation has its limits, and later inspections of imported materials found that at least one in four paper mills were far higher than the pre-shipment certificate indicated.
Key Campaign Updates
Turkey resumes plastic waste imports
Eight days after it began, Turkey has reversed course on its polyethylene plastic waste import ban, which was initially imposed following a Greenpeace investigation which revealed toxic dumps filled with waste that had originated in the U.K. After pressure mounted from the recycling industry, the ban on polyethylene waste imports was lifted with “strict controls” remaining in its place, including a review of the licenses of all 1350 companies and a bank guarantee set aside of 100 Turkish Lira per ton of imported material expected in the next 3 years. Additionally, a company’s plastic waste imports will be limited to 50% of their heat treatment capacity rather than of their crushing machine capacity, which requires greater investment and thus leading to reduced imports. Finally, all imported plastic waste will be tracked by chip from the port to the factory. With these measures, the number of companies importing waste is still expected to decrease, but in the absence of a full ban, Turkey will likely continue to be Europe’s dumping ground.

Indonesia reaffirms contamination limits
Indonesia has confirmed that the impurity tolerance maximum for paper and plastic non-B3 waste is 2%, in a Joint Decree from 2020. ISRI recently confirmed this policy will go into effect in September, touting it as a victory for the recycling industry. Others find this odd as most Material Recovery Facillities (MRFs) operational in North America and elsewhere do not achieve a low 2% impurity level and many ISRI members will be unable to meet this standard. This decree also envisages that the Indonesian Government will gradually reduce the contamination tolerance limit to less than 2% for paper and plastic wastes. Indonesian government officials have cited the lack of domestic waste collection infrastructure as reason to continue imports to make up for insufficient recycled raw materials, with capacity to recycle only 2 million tonnes of the 6.8 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year.

Shifts in Canadian waste policy
Despite only halting waste labelled “for final disposal,” Bill C-204, a private member’s bill introduced by the Conservatives, pretends to tackle the issue of plastic waste exports in Canada and has passed the House and is now in its second reading in the Senate. Canada is Party to the Basel Convention, but signed an "arrangement" they claim fulfills its obligations under the Convention to overcome a ban on trading with non-Party countries like the U.S. This dubious deal allows unregulated plastic waste trade between the countries and opens the door to transshipment to other countries via the U.S. In another development, in April, plastic manufactured items were added to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, classifying them as a “toxic substance.” The government has been sued for action by "big plastic".
The Resources
Plastic Waste Transparency Project