An ongoing spat between developing and developed nations over garbage imports has drawn attention to an issue that ‘advanced’ countries seemed to have put on the back burner – waste management.
A bitter feud between the Philippines and Canada over a shipment of garbage made world headlines when President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to dump the waste in the North American country’s territorial waters, but this situation is in fact only the tip of the iceberg, or the garbage pile.
Major producers of waste
The developed nations that are among the biggest garbage producers have turned out to be unable to safely process it. They also produce the biggest volume of plastic waste, which was recently added to the Basel convention as a hazardous substance in need of special treatment.
The US and Germany, in particular, topped the list of advanced nations which produced the most plastic waste back in 2010. America generated 38 million tons of plastic trash at that time, followed by Germany at 14.5 million and Brazil at 12 million tons, according to a study published in September 2018.
In terms of plastic waste generation per person, Germany and the US were again at the top, this time joined by Ireland. Some other developed nations also did not trail far behind but this fact apparently stayed unnoticed for many years – all because the advanced nations found a “perfect” solution to this issue: exporting their waste.
No more outsourcing
But when China – arguably the world’s biggest waste importer and producer – refused to take in any more garbage from other nations in 2017, the US and other developed countries soon found themselves “drowning” in their own waste. Washington rushed to blame Beijing while urging it to reconsider its “catastrophic” ban on foreign garbage imports.
Also on rt.com
Trash wars: US drowning in its own waste, blaming China for rejecting ‘recycled commodities’
Japan’s survey of 102 local governments found that a quarter of them accumulated plastic waste since the Chinese ban came in force, in some cases overreaching sanitary norms. The authorities admitted that they simply could not find new destinations to outsource their plastic after domestic costs of processing waste shot up.