Wealthy countries are exporting millions of tons of plastic waste to Southeast Asia where the recycling systems are becoming overwhelmed, leading to widespread pollution problems, according to a joint investigation by Greenpeace and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
In early 2018, China banned the import of plastic waste for recycling, sending the global trade into turmoil. Greenpeace and GAIA investigators collated data from the top 21 importers and exporters of plastic waste before and after the Chinese ban. They found that over half of the plastic that had been destined for China — more than 3 million tons annually — is now being diverted to Southeast Asia.
Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam are among the countries where mountains of plastic waste are piling up.