Thailand has become one of the world’s largest garbage dumps after China banned waste imports, including electronics and plastics, from foreign countries in 2017. As a result, waste from many countries that was originally shipped to China is now being redirected to countries in Southeast Asia where strict environmental laws are not enforced.
According to Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the amount of imported plastic waste skyrocketed dramatically from around 152,000 tonnes in 2018 to 323,000 tonnes in 2019. A 2019 Greenpeace report stated that top exporters of plastic waste to Asean included Australia, China, Japan, Hong Kong and the United States.
“China was the world’s garbage dump before. There were thousands of recycling plants in the country but 65% of these plants violated China’s recycling regulations and caused a negative impact to the environment. Moreover, plant workers became sick due to hazardous toxic residue,” Tara Buakamsri, country director of Greenpeace Thailand said in explaining China’s ban.