High-Income Countries Are Sending Plastic Waste to Low-Income Ones

An analysis of global trade data from nonprofit Basel Action Network (BAN) found that even after agreeing to new rules on plastic waste exporting, the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and others still sent hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste to other countries, where it’s typically sent to landfills, burned, or left to litter the environment.

At the beginning of 2021, rules took effect that ban exports of contaminated plastic waste without consent from the country that’s receiving it in an attempt to protect low-income countries from drowning in other countries’ plastic. Because of this, BAN says these exports are likely illegal. Jim Puckett, the founder of BAN, told the Grist, “We’re not able to separate plastic economically to a level where it’s isolated polymers and not contaminated with at least 5 percent or more of other stuff.’ He added that the only way to really end the world’s plastic waste problem is to move away from plastic production, saying, ‘We don’t have illusions that it’s going to be easy, but we have to get a grip on the amount of plastic we’re producing if we want to impact plastic waste.”