Friday, July 19, 2019

Southeast Asia Increasingly Saying No to US Electronic and Plastic Waste

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Plastic and electronic wastes have proven to be challenging materials to remove from the waste stream. They can be recycled, but the process is often expensive and time consuming with little market for the end products. As a result, lots of plastic and electronic waste from western countries ends up getting sent to Southeast Asia where it is supposedly sent for recycling. However, much of the waste just ends up getting dumped to create a variety of local, but imported, waste problems. Many of the countries in the region have started to ban the import of waste from the U.S. and other countries. And still others have started to send waste back to where it originated.

CNN reports that Cambodia is the latest country to send back plastic waste that ended up within their borders.

We in the U.S. have embraced recycling as a way to deal with the immense amount of waste that we produce through our out of control consumption. However, the amount of waste that we produce often overwhelms responsible recycling initiatives. This is certainly the case with plastics and electronics.

What is the solution?

The best thing that we can do in the developed world is to limit our consumption of plastics and electronics. In particular, we need to stop buying things in plastic bottles and stop using throw away plastics like plastic grocery bags. In addition, we need to consider the need for constant upgrading of electronics. Do we really need the latest phone or TV? Of course we don't. The solution to the waste problem in Southeast Asia is solvable if we make some simple choices.

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