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Import of hazardous plastic scrap

June 24, 2013

IT seems that our country has become a favourite destination for Middle East countries to dump their potentially hazardous plastic scrap in Pakistan because have lax rules and do not implement the law.

Pakistan imports all kinds of plastic scrap, including sewerage and drainage pipes, medical and clinical waste, cable insulation, bottles, food containers and packaging film, containing contaminants and traces of pesticides, pest dump, chemicals, pathogens and polymers of unknown composition, which can pose fatal hazards to the lives of those being exposed to them.

According to media reports, Pakistan alone imported 13,000 metric ton of plastic scrap this year out of which 69pc was from Middle East countries only. They have become the most reliable and consistent source of plastic scrap for Pakistani importers. Plastic scrap import figures (till April 2013) indicate that 57pc of the scrap was imported from the Middle East out of which 40pc was imported from Saudi Arabia alone. Pakistan’s import policy restricts import of hospital waste of all kinds, used sewerage pipes and used chemical containers.

Furthermore, the policy allows import only to industrial consumers subject to the following two conditions: (i) certification confirming appropriate manufacturing facility and determination of import quota from concerned federal/provincial environmental protection agency and (ii) inspection from technically - qualified designated pre - shipment inspection companies (notified by the federal government) to ensure that shipments are in compliance with the Basel Convention. Both these conditions are being violated grossly and potentially hazardous plastic scrap import and release is going on unabated.

The Pakistani importers, most of whom are traders posing as industrialists, lack the necessary recycling, even storage facilities. They operate in residential neighbourhoods exposing innocent members of the public to toxic fumes and other health hazards like lead poisoning.

After the strict checking of plastic scrap consignments in Karachi, the importers selected Lahore dry ports to have their potentially hazardous plastic scrap consignments cleared.

The more than 2,000 metric tons of plastic scrap was released in April alone out of which 98pc was released from different dry ports in Lahore, whereas 2pc was released from Islamabad port.

We hope that the PML - N government would take up this matter seriously and would use its good relations with Middle East countries to end the import of potentially hazardous plastic scrap in the country.