Over the next six months, Thailand will ban the import of 432 types of scrap electronics, or e-waste. E-waste includes any device with an electric cord or battery, and recyclers often mine these trash deposits for valuable metals. But the devices can also contain hazardous and polluting chemicals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Thailand has been struggling to deal with overflowing waste deposits following China’s imported trash ban last year.
Since then, Southeast Asian nations such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam have become dumping grounds for the world’s garbage. While Hong Kong has been expanding landfills and building recycling plants, Vietnam has stopped issuing new licenses for the import of waste and cracked down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal. Since May, a series of raids on factories that have been illegally importing and processing foreign e-waste has prompted the Thai government to finally take a stand.
In a comment to Reuters on Thursday, an anonymous senior environment ministry official said, “The meeting yesterday passed a resolution to stop importing 432 kinds of electronic waste and to ensure … that this is enforced within six months.” The meeting was chaired by Thailand’s Environment Minister, Surasak Kanchanarat. The minister spoke with Thai media on Wednesday, stating that some imports would still be allowed into the country as long as the second-hand devices had a chance at repair and reuse.
While scrap metals are still allowed, aluminum, copper and steel must be separated and cleaned in their countries of origin before they are shipped to Thailand for industrial use. Plastics, on the other hand, are not so welcomed. The country is planning to ban the import of plastic waste within the next two years, and there could also be a tax on plastic bags and plastic bans in tourist destinations, government agencies and businesses. While no official decisions have been made, Thailand has a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastics by 2021.