Tag Archives: illegal waste exports

How to Spend $18 billion on Foreign Garbage

image from wikipedia

China sucked in more than half the world’s exports of scrap copper and waste paper in 2016, and half of its used plastic. All in all, China spent over $18bn on imports of rubbish in 2016. America, meanwhile, is an eager supplier. In 2016 nearly a quarter of America’s biggest exporters by volume were recyclers of paper, plastic or metal. Topping the list was America Chung Nam, a California-based supplier of waste paper which last year exported a whopping 333,900 containers, almost all of them to China.

This may soon change. On July 18, 2017 China told the World Trade Organisation that by the end of the year, it will no longer accept imports of 24 categories of solid waste as part of a government campaign against yang laji or “foreign garbage”. The Ministry of Environmental Protection says restricting such imports will protect the environment and improve public health. But the proposed import ban will disrupt billions of dollars in trade. Recyclers worry that other categories of waste may soon receive the same treatment.

It is often cheaper to recycle scrap copper, iron and steel, as well as waste paper and plastic, than to make such materials from scratch, especially when commodity prices are high. So as commodity prices rose during the 2000s, the burgeoning trade in waste benefited both exporters, who made money from previously worthless trash, and importers, who gained access to a reliable stream of precious feedstock. Between 1995 and 2016 Chinese imports of waste grew tenfold, from 4.5m to 45m tonnes.

But imports of recyclable waste are often dirty, poorly sorted or contaminated with hazardous substances such as lead or mercury. In 1996 factories in Xinjiang inadvertently imported more than 100 tonnes of radioactive metal from Kazakhstan. The following year an American businessman was convicted of smuggling over 200 tonnes of unsorted rubbish labelled as waste paper. Even when the intended material is imported, it is often recycled improperly. In 2002 the authorities faced widespread criticism after a documentary showed workers in Guangdong province crudely dismantling discarded electronic devices and dumping the toxic remains into a river. Officials may have been spurred into the latest restrictions by the release of Plastic China, an unflattering documentary about the plastic-recycling industry which was screened at Sundance, a grand American film festival, in January 2017,

The government had already been campaigning to block imports of illegal and low-quality waste under a crackdown called Operation Green Fence launched in 2013….Whereas Green Fence was aimed at improving the quality of imported waste, the government’s latest move bans several types of waste outright, threatening some $5bn in trade. But…. recyclers who rely on imports may now switch to grubbier domestic stock.

Excerpts from Waste Management: Anti-Dumping, Economist, Aug. 5, 2017, at 32

Illegal Toxic Waste Exports: Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea

The Bureau of Customs (Philippines) is looking into the alleged shipment in May 2012 of 14 containers of toxic waste from the Manila International Container Port (MICP) to Pusan, South Korea, via the southern Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung. The case is also being investigated by the International Police, according to Philippine Daily Inquirer sources at the BOC and National Bureau of Investigation.

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon last month told this paper he had instructed MICP Collector Ricardo Belmonte to “give me a report” on the issue. Last week, Biazon disclosed “the feedback of Collector Belmonte is that there’s no such toxic waste shipment” from the MICP….

When contacted, Intelligence group staff said they were “still tracing the source” of the alleged hazardous waste, declared as stainless steel by its Metro Manila-based exporter.  The same sources added they were also “trying to determine if the Philippines was the shipment’s actual point of origin or just a transshipment point.”….

INQUIRER sources identified the shipper, the shipment’s consignee bank and contact party in Incheon, South Korea, but asked not to publish their names.  According to the shipment’s bill of lading, the 14 containers were loaded on the MV YM Immense, a container ship belonging to the Yang Ming Marine Transport, a shipping firm based in Keelung City, Taiwan.The Monrovia-registered vessel,[flag state Liberia] built in 2006, is 173 meters long and has a gross weight of 16,848 tons. Meanwhile, the BOC will closely scrutinize this year the business records of bureau-accredited exporters and importers and unmask not only smugglers but also fly-by-night and fictitious traders.  Biazon said “it’s true smuggling is still one of the biggest problems facing the bureau.” However, he emphasized “it’s not true that we are not addressing the problem.”

At the same time, he warned BOC officials and employees who have been making fortunes by conniving with smugglers, saying “the days of erring bureau personnel are definitely numbered.” “Those who continue to engage in illegal activities in connivance with smugglers will be targeted and will face the full force of the law,” according to Biazon.

Excerpt, Jerry E. Esplanada, BOC to pursue probe of alleged toxic waste shipment from Manila to South Korea, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan. 21, 2013

See also Overcoming National Barriers to International Waste Trade (pdf)

Illegal Waste Exports: UK and the Netherlands Ship Toxic Waste to Indonesia

Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo has strongly criticized the British and Dutch governments for allowing hazardous and toxic waste to be shipped to Indonesia.  Speaking to reporters after inspecting 113 containers of hazardous and toxic waste (B3) confiscated by customs officials at the Koja port in North Jakarta on Saturday, Agus said that the British and Dutch governments had violated the Basel Convention by failing to report such shipments to Indonesia.“If those countries complied with the Basel Convention, they should have reported the shipments to Indonesia because they contained hazardous and toxic waste,” Agus said.  Customs Director General Agung Kuswandono said that 89 containers came from England, while the rest came from the Netherlands. They were allegedly imported by PT HHS…Agung said that PT HHS acted as an importer which wanted to recycle the steel.  Environmental Minister Balthasar Kambuata said that metal scraps were not banned from entering  Indonesia.  “However, they must be safe and clean. These look like garbage. Some of them are wet, some are dry and some even drips smelly liquids. These clearly violate the law,” Balthasar said.

Excerpt, Hans David Tampubolon, UK, Netherlands criticized over toxic waste shipments to RI, Jan. 29, 2012