ISLAMABAD             -           Plastic waste imports into Pakistan have continued to show phenomenal growth between January 2019 and April this year, with around 65,000 metric tons shipped to the country.

In 2018, the country’s plastic waste imports climbed by 30 percent to reach 47,000 metric tons, while the figure surged by 200 percent to around 36,000 tons in 2017.

These year-on-year incremental volumes suggest that Pakistan has become a dumping ground for global hazardous waste shipments, which are non-compliant with Basel Convention requirements and put the country at a high risk of environmental and health disaster.

Pakistan imports plastic waste including hospital wastage, sewerage pipes and other hazardous materials, mainly from UK, Belgium, Canada, Germany and Saudi Arabia. These imports are made in the form of powder, granules and flakes.

At a time when countries across the globe are banning imports of plastic scrap, Pakistan is one of the few nations that is welcoming such shipments. In January 2018, China had put into effect an import ban on waste plastics as part of its efforts to clean the environment and improve health of people. Prior to this ban, China had been handling nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for 25 years.

In recent years, other regional countries, including India, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, have followed China and either totally banned plastic scrap imports or introduced new restrictions to protect the environment and health of their citizens.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has turned a blind eye to its responsibilities and commitments under the Basel Convention and has continued to adopt a lenient regulatory framework that allows the imports of contaminated plastic waste.

These imports are being made through formal entry points in violation of the Import Policy Order conditions and provisions of the Basel Convention.

According to sources, plastic waste shipments are being cleared into Pakistan without valid documents, pre-shipment inspection certificates from exporting countries as defined in the Basel Convention.

Further, the adhoc issuance of environmental certificates without undergoing due diligence is also facilitating these imports.

In view of Pakistan’s growing plastic pollution problem, it is high time that the Ministry of Climate Change follows the example of other neighboring countries to ban the import of plastic waste into the country.