Press Release Embargoed Release Embargo Lifts: 2022 Mar 1 at 0900 Manila (PST) (1AM UTC)
Attn: Environment and Global Health News Contacts:
Björn Beeler, IPEN: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Bremmer, National Toxics Network/Zero Waste Australia: email@example.com
Australia’s ‘trojan horse’ plastics waste policy fuels toxic trade across Asia
Gothenburg, Sweden The International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) has published a series of studies that reveal how Australia’s new waste policies are driving massive investment in plastic waste-to-fuel processing, and that the country’s exports are threatening waste management in ASEAN countries. This is despite the country announcing it would stop exporting unprocessed wastes in 2020, after China and other Southeast Asian countries banned plastic waste imports, starting in 2018.
Jane Bremmer, campaign coordinator for Zero Waste Australia, says: “Australia has effectively rebranded plastic waste as refuse-derived fuel (RDF), so it can continue to trade waste exports.”
The NGO adds that Australia’s stance is undermining the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, as well as global climate change commitments.
Ms. Bremmer continues: “We are concerned about Australia's ‘trojan horse’ plastic waste policy and the ability of Southeast Asian countries to safely handle refuse-derived fuel wastes. We also want to be clear that burning RDF cannot be considered green, or a low carbon source of electricity or energy. RDF will compete with and displace clean, renewable energy in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and the lack of any international standards or regulatory framework for its production, trade and use, is a threat to health, environment and human rights, especially in developing countries.”
Australia is in the midst of the biggest waste recycling and reprocessing infrastructure build out in its history. This follows the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2019 that all waste exports would be banned from Australia, after China’s National Sword policy implementation and associated actions in other Asia Pacific countries. These policies effectively ban plastic and other waste exports from Australia to other countries and especially south-east Asian destinations.
The hybrid meeting of the fifth United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-5), entitled “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, and its preparatory (the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives – OECPR), will focus on five thematic areas: plastics, nature-based solutions and biodiversity, chemicals, green recovery and circular economy, and organizational and administrative matters. IPEN has sent an international delegation to contribute to the in-person negotiations.
Under the plastic pollution thematic area, the main focus will be on discussing a mandate to start negotiation of a treaty on plastic. If agreed, the mandate would convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to negotiate a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Under consideration are three draft resolutions: one proposed by Rwanda and Peru and supported by over 50 countries; another by Japan; and the last one proposed by India. Details about these proposals and IPEN’s positions can be found in IPEN’s Quick Views on UNEA 5.2.
Under the chemicals thematic area there are 3 resolutions that will be discussed. In our quick views we focus on two resolutions: one on the Science-Policy Panel on chemicals, waste, and pollution and the resolution on Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste. In our quick views and global science policy documents, we outline many specific issues and recommendations, highlighting the need for precautionary action and as well as adequate funding for the sound management of chemicals and waste.
This country situation report looks at the state of the plastics and plastics waste markets, as well as public policy concerning plastic, looking specificallly at the public burdens and costs the result from plastic usea and waste.
This country situation report from Russia analyzes the state of the plastics market, from production to imports and exports, with special focus on the plastics waste markets, where toxic chemical additives are recycled along with base plastic types. It concludes with a summary of how the extended producer responsibility principle works in Russia.
This country situation report from Indonesia summarizes the policies and regulations in Indonesia, the petrochemical industry, the plastics industry, and plastics waste imports and exports, concluding with an analysis of the public and environmental burden and the challenges and steps needed to transition to a circular economy.
Gothenburg, Sweden As governments prepare to discuss a global instrument to tackle plastic pollution, IPEN has published a number of studies showing significant obstacles for countries seeking to implement safe plastic circular economies. The studies reveal that countries are unable to handle large volumes of diverse plastics waste streams safely, and the reality that, without regulations requiring plastic ingredients to be labeled, countries are blindly allowing known toxic chemicals onto their markets in plastic products.
IPEN says the problem will only get worse based on current forecasts of huge growth in plastic and chemical production and use. It calls for public policies to end the recycling of hazardous chemicals in plastics, that poison the circular economy and threaten human health. IPEN says that plastics producers have dodged their responsibilities by producing plastic materials with toxic chemicals and should be financially liable for any harm caused through the life cycle of plastics.
IPEN studies reveal toxic plastic waste issues in China, Indonesia and Russia
To better understand the risks associated with plastics and the circular economy, IPEN investigated the situation in three significant global economies – China, Indonesia and Russia. It analyzed:
This executive summary encompasses three reports and provides context and overviews of the ways in which the chemicals studied poison recycling streams and stymie the promise of a healthy and environmentally sustainable circular economy.