Date posted: 26/11/2019 5 min read

A short timeline of the international plastic waste trade

China’s ban on plastic waste imports had a knock-on effect across Asia and hit Australia’s waste industry hard.

By Amity Delaney

1989Basel Convention is created to govern the international waste trade in response to cases of hazardous waste dumping in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean

1992 – Developed nations begin exporting plastic waste for recycling to China and other developing Asian nations

2016 – China imports 10,225 million tonnes of plastic waste

July 2017 – China announces a ban on the import of almost all plastic waste, unsorted waste paper and waste textiles effective from December 2017. Accepted materials now need a contamination rate of 0.5% or less

March 2018 – Exports of Australian plastic waste to China shrink to one-third of its July 2017 levels

April 2018 – Australia’s environment ministers agree on a target of 100% of Australia’s packaging being recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025

May 2018 – Major ports in Vietnam ban scrap plastic imports until further notice

June 2018 – The Thai government issues an order to temporarily prohibit imports of electronic and plastic waste

July 2018 – The Malaysian government revokes the import permits for plastic waste and stops issuing scrap plastic import permits for three months

October 2018 – The Thai government announces a ban on foreign plastic waste imports by 2021

October 2018 – The Malaysian government puts levies on imported plastic waste and announces plans to tighten requirements for factories to obtain permits

October 2018 – Taiwan starts restricting imports of plastic waste – only plastic waste of a single source or type is allowed

December 2018 – Indonesian imports of Australian plastic waste reach 52,000 tonnes, a 250% increase from 2014

March 2019 – India announces a complete ban on the import of plastic scrap effective from September 2019

May 2019 – 187 countries (not including the US) sign a treaty at the United Nations Basel Convention to regulate international trade in plastic waste and restrict shipments of plastic waste to poor countries

May 2019 – Malaysia’s environment minister announces the country will be sending 3000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste back to their countries of origin, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US

May 2019 – The Philippines sends 69 shipping containers of plastic waste back to Canada

August 2019 – Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting agrees to work on a timeline to ban all export of domestic waste

November 2019 – Australia’s federal and state environment ministers release the export ban timeline. The export of waste glass from Australia will be banned by July 2020. Mixed plastics will be banned by July 2021; whole tyres by December 2021; and paper, cardboard and other materials no later than 30 June 2022.

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