Thailand says it will ban plastic waste imports by 2021, meaning the UK must find somewhere else for the thousands of tonnes of plastic it currently sends to the country for recycling each month.
Large exporters like the UK, Japan and the United States increased their reliance on Thailand as a plastic waste importer after China stopped almost all its plastic scrap imports in January.
Now Thailand is joining neighbours such as Vietnam and Malaysia in cracking down on import and processing licenses this year, and closing its doors to plastic scrap.
The ban was initially announced in June. Banjong Sukreeta, deputy director of Thailand’s department of industrial works, said on Sunday it would be introduced within two years, according to the Financial Times.
Last December environment secretary Michael Gove said that the UK needs to “stop offshoring our dirt”. Greenpeace statistics showed that progress was being made, with the total amount of plastic waste exported by the UK dropping from 198,557 tonnes in the first four months of 2017 to 165,104 tonnes in the same period this year.
However, Mr Gove admitted that in the short-term the UK would have to continue sending scrap abroad, with Thailand a key destination. According to Greenpeace the amount of plastic waste the UK sends to the country rose from 123 tonnes in January to April 2017, to 6,810 tonnes in the same period this year.
Thailand’s move came after public outcry in the country over recycling plants and importers flouting regulations and bringing contaminated plastic into the country for processing.
Greenpeace’s oceans campaigner Elena Polisano told The Telegraph: “More and more countries are having enough of being used as dumping grounds for our plastic waste. This is becoming a global game of pass the parcel where the last country gets all the plastic packaging and a nasty surprise.
“Britain should stop shipping off its plastic scrap thousands of miles away and instead tackle the problem at home by cutting the amount of throwaway plastic being produced.”