With Malaysia’s rejection of our waste, two big questions emerge

Reuters reports that:

“Malaysia, which has become the dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste, will send back non-recyclable plastic scrap to the developed countries that sent it there, its environment minister said on Tuesday.”

And also that: “some of the plastic scrap sent to Malaysia was in violation of the Basel Convention, a U.N. treaty on the trade of plastic waste and its disposal.”

And that: “Malaysia’s imports of plastic waste from its 10 biggest source-countries jumped to 456,000 tonnes between January and July 2018, versus 316,600 tonnes purchased in all of 2017 and 168,500 tonnes in 2016. More recent data is not available.”

This is also noteworthy: “Around 180 countries reached a deal on Friday to amend the Basel Convention to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, while also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”

So, could this now mean that:

1) The political environment for waste and how countries are now responding is suddenly rapidly changing. What will it mean for brands and their waste chains? Will there be emerging legal / lawsuit liabilities (not always exactly the same thing) for waste sent aboard with brand names on it?

2) Will companies simply HAVE to chip in and collaborate to build recycling facilities (what about collection? That costs even more) in the West as well as in Asia. The WBCSD fund has $1billion in pledges already for Asian nations from Western businesses)

The second point was made to me last week, unprompted, by the waste team of a large company I was meeting with in Chicago. I was pretty astounded but they seemed convinced it may be inevitable now the US recycling rate is down to just 34%.

We’re hosting a conference on this in October in Amsterdam. If you’d like details contact Narni.brooke-adil@innovation-forum.co.uk 

We held it last year, entitled “How business can tackle plastic pollution” and most of the conversation was about consumers, reputation and targets/policies. In 2019 it may also be about legal issues, the politics of waste, and most importantly, the serious collaborations now needed, across the world on tackling waste. Big companies will be asked to play a leading role. The question is, how far will that go?

Sign up for updates on our work, and this conference, at: https://innovationforum.co.uk