Last month, Thailand became the latest country to initiate a widespread ban on importing scrap electronic and plastic waste. The environmental ministry of Thailand announced that they will be banning 432 different types of scrap material by next spring. This move follows the similar motions taken by China earlier in the year, and just weeks after Vietnam made a similar announcement. Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia are afraid that with China out of the game, they’ll become the new destination for unwanted electronic garbage.
The ban covers everything from discarded televisions and radios to discarded circuit boards—432 items in all—and the widespread ban will phase into full effect within six months. The only exceptions would be for items that can actually be repaired and reused.
Electronic waste has found its way to Asian countries for years because materials found in devices’ batteries and cords can be “mined” for valuable material like copper, silver and gold. The issue is that these same devices can contain materials like mercury and lead, which are hazardous.
The ban doesn’t cover industrial materials such as steel, copper and aluminum, but Thailand’s environmental ministry still requires these items to be cleaned and sorted in the countries they’re coming from prior to entering Thailand.
After China launched its ban on e-waste imports, Southeast Asia was flooded with illegal imports. Thailand’s ban is likely the first of many such actions and laws that will be required to fully shut down the importing of hazardous materials.
Thailand is also looking at instituting a ban on plastic waste within the next two years. The country relies heavily on plastic packaging and containers, and it’s taking a toll on the environment. Earlier in the summer, a dead whale was recovered off Thailand with 80 pieces of plastic refuse in its stomach. The Thai government has committed to reducing the use of plastic bags and increasing recycling efforts 60 percent over the next two years.
The reduction of plastics is becoming a global trend and it will be interesting to see what the results are two or three years down the road.