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Plastic buffet – all you can eat


Plastic buffet – all you can eat

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

After working globally on the issue of plastic pollution for over 10 years, motivated by plenty of time in the water as a competitive swimmer, outrigger paddler, and event organiser, the much needed tipping point for awareness on this issue has finally been reached. Now comes the hard part – fixing it.

Working in Asia for over 25 years has given broad and unique insight on this problem, driving home the fact that in order to be solved, programmes need to be social in nature and structure, not simply easy technological fixes with little human touchpoint or interactions. With over 40,000 different variations in the way plastic and products are made, all within seven main “families”, it can be argued that solving plastic pollution is more complicated than bringing resolution to climate change. It does not mean that the impacts are necessarily greater, but it means that the solutions are extremely varied, and need to be sized according to populations, consumption and dispersed aggregations of waste resources, all of which assumes relatively easy and pure material collection.

This brings up an important focus on plastic circularity, which many have not addressed yet in full. In fact, the proposed Basel Amendments suggest that in fact, much of the world has yet to digest the meaning and importance of a circular economy, and whether circularity in resource reincarnation is it meant to be “local and domestic” only, or whether it should be global in nature, benefitting from competitive advantages which each country can contribute, either via processing or second-life consumption.

Today’s trade in products is global, with exports of goods and packaging going across borders, yet without concern for the capacities of importing countries to handle advance, varied polymer types, when products become waste. Poor recycling and waste management infrastructure, due to decades of insufficient investment in the sector, and reliance on the “competitive advantages” of other countries to absorb materials for circularity (recycling), has meant that most of the world is ill-equipped to create independent circular economies of their own. Why should countries be allowed to import products from others, but then be expected to have the resources to take care of the resultant waste within their often constrained geographic confines?

Although much of the global community celebrated with broad agreement to classify plastic waste as a harmful substance within the new recent amendments to the 1989 Basel Convention, the devil is in the details. I believe this is potentially the biggest mistake the world has made on the road to reduced plastic pollution, as it has a strong chance of backfiring, and leading to even more illegal dumping and open burning than we have today. Extensive press coverage of “illegal” and contaminated shipments of plastic destined for recycling have caused a whiplash effect, bringing broad-based bans on all types of plastic resources, regardless of their quality and commodity values. |

Even though the amendments have not yet been legally implemented among the signatory countries, many governments have taken it upon themselves to show engagement on the topic, with headline actions that have mainly come without consideration for long term consequences. These impacts include domestic loss of recycling industry jobs, and more importantly, the loss of capacity to help grow domestic recycling which is mandatory if circular economies need to be independently operated (per country). Of course large countries may be able to weather this storm, both because they have land available for the containment of waste (legal or otherwise), or at least its storage, but many smaller, less financially capable countries, do not have this option. Forcing domestic-circularity on countries in terms of recycling is like asking all countries to grow their own food, such as Iceland growing its own bananas, and Fiji its own apples.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

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Nina has worked for Inspire and Choice Group Asia since 2011 and loves to party when she can!

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