Asia Minute: Southeast Asia Pushing Back Against Trash Exports

Jan 11, 2019

Credit Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson / U.S. Air Force

There has been news this week about the continuing trade talks between the United States and China. Meetings in Beijing were extended for several days, and further details are likely to emerge in coming days. Meanwhile, it’s been a busy week for a different kind of trade development elsewhere in Asia.

For many years, China was the final destination for much of the world’s trash — everything from recycled metal to plastic waste. But about a year ago, China stopped accepting most kinds of garbage. That sent companies and countries scrambling to find alternative locations — many in Southeast Asia.

This week there’s been pushback — starting in the Philippines.

The Korea Herald reports that some 6,500 tons of illegally exported plastic waste is now on its way from the Philippines back to its point of origin in South Korea — nearly half a year after its arrival.

It’s the second case in a few months involving illegal trash exports to the Philippines being shipped back to South Korea.

Pressure is now growing on Canada to take back about 100 shipping container loads of trash that were illegally sent to the Philippines several years ago.

The Korea Times reports one senator urged Canada to follow up with action — saying “we’re not someone else’s dumping ground.”

Credit Senior Master Sgt. Burke Baker / U.S. Air Force

Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia have all seen increased imports of trash since China began restricting its own intake.

According to the news website Quartz, within the last six months, all three countries have tightened regulations concerning the trash trade.