On August 16, 2018, Reuters reported that Thailand plans to ban imports of a variety of scrap electronics within the next six months and recycled plastic within the next two years. The Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Kanchanarat, cites environmental and health concerns as the reason for the ban.
While some repairable appliances, such as telecommunication devices, will continue to be allowed to enter the country, 432 types of electronic waste, such as circuit boards, will not. The trade in so called “e-waste” is centered around the ability to mine the scrapped electronic items for copper, gold, platinum, silver, and the like. In addition to valuable components, e-waste often contains potentially harmful elements including lead.
Thailand is not alone in its concerns about imported waste. Earlier this week, more than 100 plastic waste processing factories’ import permits were revoked in Malaysia due to environmental concerns. Likewise, Vietnam announced last month that it will cease issuing new licenses for the import of waste products. Vietnam also noted environmental and health concerns as the primary reasons for the new policy. Waste processing serves as a supplemental source of materials for Vietnam’s paper, plastic, and steel industries, according to Reuters. In regard to plastic, some Vietnamese companies reportedly use as much as eighty percent recycled materials in production.
The changing policies across the region are likely in response to recent and sizable increases in the volume of waste imports in the respective countries. Waste imports in Southeast Asian countries increased after China banned certain waste imports earlier this year.