Guest column by Griffins Ochieng and Yuyun Ismawati Originally published December 23, 2020, on allAfrica.com
Kenya has been a beacon for global efforts to reduce plastics. The country’s 2017 plastic bag ban reduced environmental degradation that comes from plastic waste and demonstrated decisive government action against plastic pollution. Now, Kenya finds itself again in the spotlight as the primary line of defense to protect Africans from an unprecedented explosion of toxic plastic waste across the continent. New research exposing that toxic chemicals from plastics are poisoning Africa’s food chain, covered in The East African, should strengthen governmental resolve to protect the collective health of Kenyans and all Africans.
When China closed its door to imports of the world’s plastic waste in 2017, the world’s biggest plastic waste producers began dumping plastic waste in countries with developing economies and weaker environmental infrastructures, predominantly in South East Asia. The recycling game had been disrupted , but the world pushed back .
In 2020, Kenya joined 183 other countries in giving developing countries a simple tool to resist the dumping of waste from the global north. Kenya signed the sensible Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendment , which requires importers to declare the contents of their shipments and secure prior informed contest from importing countries before shipping plastic waste.
Governments and advocates have joined forces and worked to repatriate unwanted waste from the Philippines , Indonesia , Malaysia , and Thailand . Interpol documented a dramatic upswing in criminal plastic waste dumping, further underscoring that plastic waste is a burden that no one wants.
Yet despite the growing global movement against plastic pollution, the chemical industry is moving to create MORE plastics, aiming to triple the supply by 2030 . Why? Over 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from oil and gas. As prices drop for fossil fuel energy, the industry is increasing plastic production. Skyrocketing plastic production means an even larger colossus of plastic waste, waste that is riven with toxic chemicals that are hazardous to human health and the environment.
IPEN Steering Committee member Griffins Ochieng, of CEJAD (Center for Environmental Justice and Development) commented for both articles. “The chemistry council’s plastics proposals would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” said Ochieng. “It’s shocking.” In response to clogged waterways, Kenya imposed a country-wide plastic bag ban in 2017, putting it in the forefront of opposition to plastic waste, which contains toxic additives and can break down into smaller particles that enter food and water systems. “Africa is looking like a new dumping ground, we are not going to allow that,” Ochieng said.
For more on toxic plastics and weak controls on their trade and disposal, visit our Toxic Plastics page.
Re-exportation of Illegal Trash Re-Ignites Call to Ban All Waste Imports
Monday, 03 August 2020
Quezon City, PhIlippines - After sitting in Northern Mindanao for two years, the final batch of 80 container vans of contaminated plastic waste from South Korea are set to sail home this week amid the continuing COVID-19 outbreak.
Deceptively declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” the contaminated plastic waste materials, which arrived in July and October 2018 at the ports in Villanueva and Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, were found by the authorities to contain unsorted plastic materials, used dextrose tubes, soiled diapers, discarded electronics and household garbage in violation of national laws and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
Following successful bilateral negotiations led by the Bureau of Customs-Region 10, which the EcoWaste Coalition attended, a total of 251 container vans of illegal waste shipments were re-exported to South Korea this year on July 18 (53 containers), March 27 (47 containers), February 16 (50 containers) and January 19 (50 containers), and last year on January 19 (51 containers). The last 80 containers are scheduled for re-shipment on August 4 and 8 bringing the total number of returned containers loaded with garbage to 331.
“The completion of the complicated re-exportation procedures in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis that continues to disrupt and claim people’s lives is a big win in our people's pursuit of environmental justice and the rule of law during these most difficult times,” declared Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Groups vow to keep up the pressure against dumping of foreign wastes in PH
Quezon City. As the authorities grapple with the repacking of over 5,000 tons of illegal waste cargoes stranded in Misamis Oriental for re-export to South Korea, environmental health and justice groups vow to keep up the pressure to prevent the recurrence of foreign waste dumping via the country’s seaports.
7 NGOs call on Environment Minister McKenna and the Canadian government to support the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits developed countries like Canada from exporting their hazardous wastes to developing countries. Read the letter to Minister McKenna here.