Thailand is one of the major destinations for our plastic scraps, but their recycling plants are releasing toxic fumes into the air and are harming communities.

Source: Coconuts TV/YouTube

Southeast Asian recycling centers are major destinations for plastic from the United States and other wealthier countries. Once the plastic arrives in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, or other countries, it will enter recycling plants, where it is sorted into plastics that can be recycled. The higher-quality plastic can be recycled, but the rest is often incinerated or dumped. This is a huge problem for public health and the environment.

Thankfully, these countries are stepping up and banning the imports of these plastics. Thailand banned imports of household waste in 2019. Unfortunately, there are often large loopholes that make it hard to enforce.

Until recently, China was the number one destination for recyclable materials. Countries like Japan, the United States, and much of Europe all depended on them to absorb their excess materials. However, the Chinese government created a policy in 2017 called the National Sword, which banned imports of all plastics except the cleanest. Imports to China dropped 99 percent in the first year after the policy went into effect.

This meant that more waste was shopped to these other countries like Thailand and Malaysia. Malaysia received 200 percent more in 2018 than it had two years earlier.

People in communities near these recycling plants have reported numerous health problems that can be attributed to the burning of these materials that could not be processed.

Globally, we produce 300 million tons of plastic every year, 78 percent of which is NOT reclaimed or recycled. Around 8.8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the oceans every year! 700 marine animals are faced with extinction due to the threat that plastic poses to them in the form of entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will have ingested plastic waste. According to a study by the World Economic Forum, there will be one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and if things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

Read more about how companies like Facebook, Tupperware, Google, Dove,  Budweiser, Carlsberg, and FIJI Water are working towards reducing plastic pollution. Places around the world like Tel Aviv, California, Baltimore, Scotland, and many more are banning various single-use plastics, and others are coming up with creative ways to recycle and use plastic waste.

There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter, and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and household cleaners, using  mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads!

To learn more about the impact of plastic waste, please read the articles below: 

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