New international regulations can prevent the recycling of New Zealand plastics thrown away, buried and burned in developing countries.
At present, most of the recycling sent overseas is not regulated – but new requirements are based Basel Convention can limit exports of “contaminated” plastics.
In developing countries, New Zealand sends recycled, dirty and useless contaminated plastics, said Massey University environmental anthropologist Dr. Trisia Farrelly.
“They can’t do anything with it … they either have to bury it, or they burn it, throw it away, or they burn it.”
* ‘Recycled’ plastic thrown away abroad is being sent back, and the population no longer wants it
* New Zealand rejects recycling lost on its way from Indonesia
* Indonesia rejects recycling of ‘poisonous’ plastics from Western countries
Farelly said, the Government gave New Zealand two options – sending recycling with or without restrictions on contamination.
“We need to ensure that there are clear limits to the contamination of our waste that is sent offshore,” he said.
“We have to look carefully at how we sort waste, and what our waste structure looks like.”
The convention, effective January 2021, means that most exports of “mixed plastic” waste will require prior approval from recipient countries, a Ministry of Environment spokesman said.
“Relatively free trade in plastic waste for recycling has led to limited transparency about the types of waste exported, and how the waste is ultimately recycled or disposed of,” he said.
Ministry is propose changes for Import and Export Orders to meet the requirements of the Basel Convention, and include “mixed plastic waste” in the New Zealand licensing system.
At present, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is only required to issue permits to export “hazardous” plastic waste, or plastic waste mixed with other waste.
The Basel Amendment aims to recycle which produces “residual waste” in developing countries.
“Rubbish is often thrown into landfills or burned, which has a negative impact on the environment.”
Waste disposed of can consist of contaminants such as food, dirt, other contamination, or consisting of a type of plastic that must not be in a particular bales.
“[The Basel Convention] will encourage trade in separated high value plastic waste to be recycled, and prevent trade in low value mixed plastic waste which tends to cause more residual waste and worse environmental impacts. ”
New Zealand has various steps to reduce contamination, he said.
That includes consumer education about proper recycling, collection methods such as road sides, commercial and drop-offs, sorting out facilities to reduce contamination, and propeller materials for offshore market export requirements.
Farelly said it was time for New Zealand to clean up its actions.
“We must work towards a circular economy where we can recycle all of our own plastic, and not send it abroad to developing countries.”
The clean recycling case was made clear last year when Indonesia sent five containers of recontaminated waste – too contaminated.
But the returned containers never made it back to New Zealand, and Farelly believes that they were intercepted by other developing countries.
“Developing countries want to maintain relations with larger countries,” he said.
A Ministry spokesman said that there was no further information from Indonesian officials about the location of the container, or the nature of the alleged contamination.
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