Importing Waste

It looks like Pakistan has become one of the top destinations of imported waste from countries like the UK, UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The aim is to encourage recycling but without effective mechanisms in place to facilitate this, the reality is that this waste will collect in landfills that will sit still for years to come. According to recent reports, there are no checks on how hazardous the materials may be either. All these factors combined make for a situation that is less than ideal for a country that is already struggling with pollution, disease and economic instability.
Every year, Pakistan produces over 30 million tonnes of waste and imports 80,000 tonnes on top of that. The hope is always to salvage valuable materials like gold, copper, aluminium, rubber, paper and certain plastics while the rest is to be disposed of responsibly. The utility of this process is apparent, especially judging from the fact that the recycling industry is now worth billions of dollars, and Pakistan wants its share of the money.
For most developing countries, importing waste can be a good source of income that can spearhead development. This trajectory is predicated upon the assumption that it has all the technology, equipment and political will to commit to the process of recycling. Pakistan is not the prime example of such a country as it already struggles to eliminate its own waste which is either burned illegally or dumped in landfills or waterways. There has been a consistent lack of initiative on part of the government to encourage the reduce, reuse and recycle culture. The least one would expect is that there would be a comprehensive screening process for waste imports but according to recent reports, over 40 no-objection certificates allowed for deadly waste to enter the country as well.
Perhaps this is a venture that we can explore in the future because the recycling industry is rather lucrative. However, our success heavily relies on the acknowledgment of the importance of recycling, changing our lazy attitudes towards it, and embarking upon technological developments that facilitate the process. A good example is Sweden, which imports garbage and uses it to produce energy. A regulated process of burning generates electricity and the smoke is clarified before being released into the atmosphere. Not only has it reduced its carbon emissions by 2.2 million this year but it has also earned over $100 million through this process. Through steady and consistent efforts, this could be our future as well.

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