Study finds exports to region doubled in 2020 with practice predicted to grow as U.S. invests in recycling plants
December 31, 2021.- Environmental organisations across Latin America have called on the US to reduce plastic waste exports to the region, after a report found the US had doubled exports to some countries in the region during the first seven months of 2020.
The U.S. is the world’s largest plastic waste exporter, although it has dramatically reduced the overall amount it exports since 2015, when China – previously the top importer – said it “no longer wanted to be the world’s rubbish dump” and began imposing restrictions. Elsewhere around the world imports are rising, and not least in Latin America, with its cheap labour and close proximity to the US.
More than 75% of imports to the region arrive in Mexico, which received more than 32,650 tons (29,620 metric tonnes) of plastic waste from the US between January and August 2020. El Salvador was second, with 4,054 tons, and Ecuador third, with 3,665 tons, according to research carried out by the Last Beach Cleanup, an environmental advocacy group based in California.
While hazardous waste imports are subject to tariffs and restrictions, they are seldom enforced and plastic waste intended for recycling – which until January this year was not considered hazardous under international law – that enters importing countries can often end up as landfill, according to a researchers with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia).
A Gaia report published in July also predicted further growth in the plastic waste sector in Latin America due to companies in the US and China investing in factories and recycling plants across the region to process the US plastic exports.
Some view the practice as a form of environmental colonialism. “The cross-border plastic waste trade is perhaps one of the most nefarious expressions of the commercialisation of common goods and the colonial occupation of territories of the geopolitical south to turn them into sacrifice zones,” said Fernanda Solíz, the health area director at the Simón Bolívar University in Ecuador.
Source: The Guardian
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