Asian Countries Send Trash Back to Where it Came From

Several developing countries in Asia have had enough of the developed world's trash — so they're sending it back. 🚮

Demanding a ban on foreign import waste and for the remaining trash to be sent back to the original countries

Several developing Asian nations are now sending trash back to developed countries. Developing countries first decided to take in the waste because it was a source of income. For developed countries, sending their “recyclable” waste overseas is cheap, reduces domestic landfill, helps meet recycling targets. But only 9% of the world's plastic is recycled, according to a 2018 study by National Geographic. Unrecyclable materials end up being burned illegally, dumped in landfills and waterways. Beijing's ban on plastic waste imports sent rich economies like the U.S., Europe and Japan scrambling for alternative destinations for their recyclables, settling in many cases on Southeast Asia.

This is an illegal factory nearby our community, less than one kilometer [away]. There is recycled plastic waste, and we found this waste actually a lot from developed countries like USA, Australia, UK, Switzerland, Japan. We found the factory, they just dump the non-recyclable plastic or the rejected product, then they burn (it) in the backyard of this factory. So those toxic fumes actually already caused a lot of health problems to our residents,” adss Pua Lay Peng, environmentalist.

This can then cause respiratory illnesses, water contamination, crop deaths. The moves come after China, the longtime major trash importer, stopped accepting scraps last year. Seeing a huge influx of garbage into the region, Southeast Asian countries are refusing to become a dumping ground for developed economies' waste. China imported most of the world's plastic waste. But in 2018, it banned it due to concerns about contamination and pollution. The exports were then redirected to Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand…Until they also decided to send trash back. Cambodia has just announced it will send 1,600 tons of plastic waste back to the U.S. and Canada.