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Is the Global Waste Trade an Issue?

The global waste trade denotes the billion-dollar market involving the transfer of waste between countries. As a recycling company passionate about reducing waste and improving the environment across the globe, we felt it was important to bring the topic to the forefront of industry discussion. We’re going to explain what the global waste trade is and analyse whether the current climate of global waste trade is problematic.

What is the global waste trade?

The global waste trade is the international trade of domestic waste for further treatment, disposal or recycling. Countries — typically developed countries of the Global North — will absolve their responsibility of excess waste by exporting it to other countries, most of whom will be less developed and from the Global South. In return, these countries that are unable to manufacture quality products can use the imports to boost their economy.

Is the global waste trade an issue?

Though the waste is often welcomed by developing countries in hopes of boosting their economy, it’s not without its problems.

A large proportion of exported waste is either toxic or hazardous. Less developed countries become burdened with this dangerous material, often lacking the resources to process it effectively and safely. The waste that does get processed is often achieved at the expense of the worker’s health. The waste that fails to get processed will be dumped and become an environmental pollutant. Many observers perceive the global waste trade as an exploitative operation by the richer countries to foist their waste onto the poorer countries.

Is there evidence of exploitation in the global waste trade?

The increase in hard-to-recycle plastic waste exportation is often used as an allegation of exploitation or unethical conduct between countries.

The Basel Convention treaty is legislation designed to mitigate the damage subjected to developing countries by preventing the transfer of hazardous waste. It is predicated on the notion that exporting countries are not to engage in irresponsible dumping. Unfortunately, the official definition of hazardous waste — which essentially states that it must both be listed and possess a characteristic such as being explosive, flammable, toxic, or corrosive — led to the discovery of a loophole in which there is no legal differentiation between recyclable plastic and contaminated mixed plastic waste. Consequently, developed countries have been attempting to solve their unrecyclable plastic pollution problem by exporting it to less developed countries in spite of the intent of the Basel Convention.

Have any resolutions been made for this loophole?

Following a UN convention on plastic waste in May 2019, a new amendment was created to the Basel Convention treaty in an attempt to close the problematic loophole. Exporting countries will now have to obtain consent from receiving countries when attempting to transfer contaminated, mixed or unrecyclable plastic waste. 187 countries signed the agreement in what has been described as a “historic” achievement. This amendment also applies to the United States, despite no longer being a member of the UN.

Here at Hill Metal recycling, we’re passionate believers in ethical recycling practices that improve the environment for all. We’ve implemented several assets and services to aid us in our goal of recycling as much as we possibly can, including state-of-the-art recycling facilities and a 24-hour scrap cable collection service. We also offer the most competitive prices on scrap metals across Harlow, Hertfordshire and the surrounding areas of Essex. To learn more, get in contact today.