The Thai government will ban imports of electronic and plastic waste following reports of massive piles of scrap electronics turning up in the country, potentially turning it into the “world’s garbage bin,” local media reported on Thursday.
“We need to prioritise good environment and the health of our citizens over industrial development,” Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Surasak Kanchanarat, told local newspaper the Nation.
Kanchanarat’s remarks came after local media reported in late May on e-waste – much of which contains potentially harmful elements such as lead and cadmium – turning up in Thailand from many parts of the world, including the US, the EU, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.
Most of the new e-waste was imported illegally, as Thai factories saw a new way of making profits after China, the world’s biggest importer of waste, stopped accepting 24 types of foreign waste in 2017.
Up to 411 kinds of e-waste will be banned without a specific timeline set, pending the issuance of a new regulation, while all plastic waste imports will be banned in the next two years, Surasak said.
“We need to ensure that domestic and plastic waste is used by the recycling industry first, before we import these materials from other countries,” he added.
Thailand is one of the world’s top contributors of ocean waste – half of which is plastic, according to Greenpeace.