Not all Trade is Good – the Case of Plastics Waste

Credit: United Nations

By Alexey Kravchenko
BANGKOK, Thailand, Jan 6 2020 (IPS)

Currently, approximately
300 million tons
of oil-based plastic waste are produced every
year. A significant amount of plastic waste ends up in the oceans,
having a detrimental effect on marine ecosystems and coastal
communities. Most of this waste originates
from the Asia-Pacific region

If unaddressed, by 2050 there could be
more plastic than fish
in the oceans.

Recognizing the problem, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development addresses plastic pollution in the ocean. It is widely
acknowledged that regulating single-use plastics and microplastics
is a major component in achieving this target.

An increasing number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region and
across the world are now introducing regulations addressing
consumption, production and trade in single-use plastics and
plastic waste.

Perhaps the most stringent recent example of addressing
single-use plastics is in Kenya, where, since August 2017,
producing, selling or even using plastic bags can result in four
years in prison or a fine of up to $40,000

Prior to the ban, plastics were ubiquitous on the streets, and

3 out of 10 animals in abattoirs were found to have plastics in
their stomachs

Alexey Kravchenko

Eight months after, the number has gone down to 1 in 10, and the
streets are much cleaner. This, however, came at a significant cost
– it was estimated that up to 60,000 jobs were lost as a result
– Kenya was a major plastic producer and exporter.

Highlighting the need for regional cooperation, illegal imports
from neighbouring countries began to emerge, and the
Government of Kenya is urging its neighbours to institute similar

While many developed countries remain better at ensuring that
plastics and other waste do not end up in waterways through
adequate refuse collection mechanisms and littering fines,
recycling remains an issue. This was seemingly addressed through
exporting waste plastic for recycling to other countries, most
significantly to China.

Since 1992, China imported
almost half
of the world’s plastic waste for recycling.

However, recognizing the negative effect these imports were
having on its environment and air quality, in 2018, the Government
of China banned the importation of plastic waste.

Over the coming decades, as much as
111 million tons
of plastic will have to find a new place to be
processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China’s

The ban led exporters to seek other markets, and exports of
plastic waste to other countries in the region, such as India,
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have skyrocketed.

Expectedly, this resulted in deteriorating environmental
situations in the recipient countries and generated backlash:
following China’s example, both Malaysia and Thailand have since
banned the import of plastic waste.

Recognizing the damaging effect of trade in plastic waste, on 11
May 2019, a total of 180 Governments adopted an amendment to the
Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding
framework that will make global trade in plastic waste
more transparent and better regulated
, while also ensuring that
its management is safer for human health and the environment.

According to this Agreement, exporting countries will now have
to obtain consent from countries receiving contaminated, mixed or
unrecyclable plastic waste.

Such trade regulations are commonly referred to as non-tariff
measures (NTMs) – policy measures other than tariffs that can
potentially have an economic effect on international trade in

During the past two decades, while applied tariffs in the
Asia-Pacific region have been halved, the number of NTMs has risen
significantly. NTMs often serve legitimate and important public
policy objectives, but their trade costs are estimated to be more
than double that of ordinary customs tariffs.

As such, they have become a key concern for traders as well as
for trade policymakers aiming to ensure that trade can continue to
support sustainable development.

This year’s Asia-Pacific Trade
and Investment Report
by ESCAP and UNCTAD provides an overview
of NTM trends and developments in Asia and the Pacific. It explores
how NTMs relate to the Sustainable Development Goals and points to
the importance of aligning NTMs with international standards as one
way to bring down trade costs of NTMs, as well as of strengthening
regional cooperation and streamlining and digitalizing compliance

The post
Not all Trade is Good – the Case of Plastics Waste
first on Inter Press


Alexey Kravchenko is Associate Economic Affairs
Officer, Trade, Investment and Innovation Division at the Economic
and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

The post
Not all Trade is Good – the Case of Plastics Waste
first on Inter Press

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Not all Trade is Good – the Case of Plastics Waste