The plastic problem

May 29 2020

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LAST year, over 180 countries agreed to include mixed plastic scrap in the Basel Convention, which would make it more difficult for developed nations to ship their hazardous waste to the developing world. Ever since China banned the import of plastic waste two years ago, some of the world’s largest polluters — including the US, the UK, Japan and Germany — have been seeking other nations to fill in the gap. The environmental damage and health repercussions caused by plastic are well established, and it is simply unfair for some of the world’s wealthiest countries to outsource their plastic problem to the developing nations. This is just one more example to show how mindless consumerism and capitalistic disregard for the environment disproportionately affects poorer countries, even though they are responsible for a far smaller percentage of total global pollution. It further exacerbates inequality between nations and individuals within those nations. But while other Asian countries have increased restrictions on the import of plastic scrap as they recognise that the long-term harm of plastic far outweighs short-term economic gains, the dumping of such waste has only increased in Pakistan. According to a report in this paper recently, in the past three years alone, thousands of tons of plastic have made their way to Pakistan, which is still struggling to create proper waste management infrastructures and provide adequate healthcare to all its citizens. Despite being a signatory to the Basel Convention and having several other legal restrictions in place to prevent the country from becoming a dumping ground for the world’s plastic addiction, the reality on the ground speaks otherwise.

The present government has time and again brought up the urgency of addressing global climate change challenges. Given that Pakistan is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is now time to act upon those words, and take strict action against the import of plastic scrap, particularly single-use plastics, and perhaps look into banning it altogether.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020