Exporting plastic waste: We need to stop passing the buck

Day 97 – Today is World Health Day. The focus of this year’s World Health Day is building a fairer, healthier world.

“As COVID-19 has highlighted, some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others – entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age.

All over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services. This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And it harms our societies and economies.” – World Health Organization

The exporting of our plastic waste to other countries is a perfect example of the unfairness that exists. The U.S. is sending plastic waste to poor countries that really do not have the infrastructure to effectively process it for recycling. This waste ends up causing major harm to the environment, economy, and health of the residents.

Photo credit – Earth911.com

The U.S. used to sell extra recyclables to China. However, the high contamination rates led China to the ban of importing recyclables in 2018. Now, the U.S. along with other industrial countries are sending their contaminated recyclables to countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Unfortunately, these countries are not able to handle the influx of plastic waste. A lot of this waste ends up in landfills, the oceans or burned, creating toxic fumes.

This attitude of “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY), needs to stop. We can not continue to avoid the plastic waste problem by sending it to someone else to worry about it. The U.S. and all the other countries exporting their plastic waste, need to address the issue, at home.

So, what can we do?

  1. Adopt the attitude, “my waste, my responsibility”
  2. Support plastic reduction plans in your community.
  3. Buy in bulk with reusable containers.
  4. Choose renewable packaging options instead of plastic.
  5. Reduce unnecessary consumption.

We need to work toward ending NIMBYism. The buck needs to stop with us.

Tomorrow, reclaiming building material.