Plastic Waste Trade Watch
March 2022
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 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
Turkey – Plastic textile wastes burning at the plastic recycler and importer Remax on the Osmaniye-Adana highway, in the Adana region of Turkey. This is the third fire in recent months at the facility. Photo: DHA Agency.
Trade Data Summary
Complete plastic waste export data from some government datasets for 2021 is expected to be published soon. 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 continue to flood non-OECD countries with plastic waste.

Australia: In 2021, Australia increased plastic waste exports to 108,603 tonnes from 102,400 tonnes in 2020, with 80% shipped to non-OECD countries. This is equivalent to each of Australia’s 25.6 million people sending over 4 kg of plastic waste to other countries.

U.K.: In January 2022, the U.K. exported a total of 29,238 tonnes of plastic waste, with 2,798 tonnes (10%) going to Turkey and 52,145 tonnes (5%) going to non-OECD countries.

U.S.: In January 2022, the U.S. exported a total of 38,449 tonnes of plastic waste, with 16,946 tonnes (44%) going to non-OECD countries: Malaysia (5,397 tonnes), India (2,939 tonnes), Vietnam (1,983 tonnes) and Indonesia (2,188 tonnes). U.S. plastic waste exports to Latin America: Mexico (6,891 tonnes), El Salvador (1,314 tonnes), and Ecuador (582 tonnes).

Germany: In January 2022, Germany exported a total of 47,757 tonnes of plastic waste, with 9,278 tonnes (20%) going to non-OECD countries and 9,643 tonnes (20%) going to Turkey.
Data Charts of the Month
More detailed plastic waste trade information is available in the data section of the Hub
Basel Implementation News
Violations in plastic waste trade rampant one year after amendments

Full life-cycle controls vital
BAN released a Delegate Alert on February 25 to the Basel Convention Delegates. Many of these same country representatives will be attending the negotiating session at the UNEA 5.2 meeting in Nairobi, discussing the creation of a new global treaty on plastics, calling for action on minimizing the generation of plastics and plastic wastes. This alert examines the fact that governments are largely ignoring the new Basel Amendments. Moreover, it calls for a life-cycle approach to eliminate plastic waste at the source rather than simply seeking to control its trade.
Contamination Levels

The Basel Convention's 2019 Plastic Waste Amendments utilize the term "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
“Australia has set a high bar as the first country in the world to ban the export of waste plastic; we will continue to take strong action on plastics in our own backyard by investing in technology, manufacturing capability and jobs.”

-- Australian Minister of the Environment Sussan Ley, announcing new investments in advanced recycling and speaking of the country’s export ban on mixed plastics, despite granting a license to its largest waste-to-energy facility to export plastic waste in the form of a fuel just days after this ban came into effect. 
Video of the Month
Top Stories
U.K. shipments go unchecked; waste leaders advocate export ban
Around five percent of waste exports were stopped at ports and inspected by officials in the last three months of 2021, according to waste industry officials testifying before U.K. DEFRA, and only one percent were actually barred from leaving the country. These officials, including a representative from the Environmental Services Association (an organization that promotes energy-from-waste), characterized the incentive for waste criminals as “low risk, high reward” as they might get a four-figure fine when they’ve made a six- or seven-figure profit. They also advocated for export bans on problematic plastics to all countries, not just those outside the OECD, to stop mixed or unsorted plastics, as regulators cannot stop materials that are legal to move. Additionally, Greenpeace delivered a petition signed by almost half a million to the U.K. Prime Minister, demanding the government stop dumping plastic waste in Turkey. The U.K. has exported 486,000 tons of plastic waste to Turkey in the past three years.
Australia boasts about ban, exports waste as fuel
As Australia’s Stage 1 ban on exporting mixed plastic went into effect July 1, 2021, the Australian government is now announcing a $60 million investment in the recycler sector targeted toward tackling problematic plastics like bread bags and chip packets, those that would have often been exported in mixed bundles. The government has touted its ban as the first globally, with a ban on unprocessed single-type plastic waste coming into effect on July 1, 2022. They have also pushed other countries to follow their lead and ban plastic exports to protect marine environments from increased plastic litter. Despite this rosy picture, the government granted a license to its largest waste-to-energy facility to export plastic waste in the form of a fuel just days after the Stage 1 ban came into effect last year. This undermines the law’s strength and promotes the highly polluting practice of incinerating plastic waste as an acceptable way to dump waste on other countries.  
Key Campaign Updates
Loopholes fuel Canadian plastic exports, officials seek change
Despite the Basel plastic amendments coming into force on January 1, 2021, Canadian plastic waste exports are up 13% in 2021 over the previous year. Officials blame a “lackadaisical” approach to exporting plastic, where much of it goes to the United States and likely on to third countries; however, there is little transparency about the ultimate destinations of these shipments. For example, Canada quietly signed a side agreement with the United States which allows the free flow of plastic waste between the countries, which is allowed under Basel rules, but since the United States is not a Party to the Convention, it can then ship the waste to wherever it wants and allowing Canada to circumvent its obligations. Additionally, Canadian journalists recently illuminated another exit route for Canadian plastic waste in an investigation of paper scrap exports to India, which found that they were routinely contaminated with an estimated plastic content of 25%, while the legal rate in India is just 2%. In India, they found easily recognizable Canadian plastic packaging with low-wage workers trying to remove the plastic by hand, and burning the soft plastics. This process was being conducted at night in order to create cheap fuel for other factories and consequently pollutes the air and causes breathing problems, asthma, skin diseases, and cancers for those around.
NGOs call for Maersk to ban plastic waste shipments
After the world’s largest container shipping company CMA CGM announced that it would ban plastic shipments on its vessels, NGOs are calling for the Danish shipping company Maersk to follow suit. Maersk transports the third-highest amount of plastic waste among shipping companies and recently stopped all non-essential shipments to Russia, which underlines its ability to adapt quickly to changing market pressures.
Opinion of the Month
Dear Maersk - Stop Transporting Plastic Waste – by Louise Lerche-Gredal
New Resources
-- Impact of China’s National Sword Policy on the U.S. Landfill and Plastics Recycling Industry – Report by Aditya Vedantam, Nallan C. Suresh, Khadija Ajmal, Michael Shelly
The Atlas of Plastic Waste
The Atlas of Plastic Waste is a collaboration between the Basel Action Network (BAN) and graduate students Matthew Gordon (Yale University) and Anna Papp (Columbia University). The project aims to harness human discoveries and inputs from satellite and computer technology to identify sites around the world where plastic waste ends up in the terrestrial environment. The goal is to raise awareness worldwide of the unsustainable characteristics of plastic and the large degree it has become an unwanted geographic feature of our collective landscape and Earth's biosphere.

We are soliciting submissions from each of you for the locations of plastic waste dumps to begin the creation of a global database of these sites. If you know of a major dump site (at least the equivalent volume of waste as a large city bus), please submit the information HERE.

We will use satellite data to view the user submitted dump locations this data will, in turn, refine the satellite’s algorithm to find more sites independently/automatically. The Atlas will ultimately contain data based on your submissions to our entry portal, as well as verified new locations discovered by satellite.

Help us create and build this Atlas by inputting known sites in your part of the world and likewise tell your friends to join in from their corners of the world. Together we can make this Atlas a comprehensive global snapshot and help the public and governments better understand the severity of the plastic malignancy on the Earth today.
Plastic Waste Transparency Project