Since 1980s, China was once the largest import market of plastic waste in the world, and in 2015 over 56% of plastic waste was shipped to China. Since January 1st 2018, according to a research conducted by Unearthed, the investigative arm of Greenpeace UK, after China's prohibition on foreign waste imports, many nations are facing the problem about how to deal with garbage. The United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and Mexico are among the largest exporters of waste plastics and their exports of plastic waste to other developing countries increased significantly. Based on the data colleting from US Census Bureau, from January to June 2018, nearly half of the plastic waste was shipped to Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam while exports to mainland China fell by 92% and the exports to Hong Kong fell by 77%.
The waste generally consists of household recycling including disposable plastic bottles, plastic bags, food packages and even worse it may contain toxic substances. The overwhelming environmental pressure has already shown in several countries. In May, Vietnam suspended imports of plastic waste tentatively since its two ports were overloaded due to China’s rejection on plastic waste. In June, a Thai pilot whale found dead with 80 plastic bags in its stomach indicated the detrimental effects of plastic on watercourse and aquatic animals. A month later, Malaysia withdrawn part of its import permits because earlier of the time, residents in Banting, southwest Kuala Lumpur, launched strong complaint about air and water pollution. It’s not hard to guess that as time goes on, these countries will also enact domestic policies to crack down on untempered waste importing and processing. Although the market is legitimate in those southeast countries, the relationship between trade and environmental protection is still a concern to be stressed.