LAHORE, Feb 12: Customs authorities continue to release imported plastic scrap merely on generalised letters and certificates from exporters in violation of the Import Policy Order which categorically asks for compliance to the provisions of the Basel Convention, sources in the industry told Dawn on Tuesday.

The Basel Convention specifies 27 waste streams and 18 constituent materials whose presence in any product can make it hazardous.

During January, over 2,500 tons plastic scrap was released from different ports in Punjab with 56 per cent from the Lahore Prem Nagar, 38 per cent from the Lahore Thokhar Niaz Baig, three per cent from the Lahore Dry Port and three per cent from the Multan Dry Port.

Scrap of European and Middle Eastern origin continued to be released on generalised certificates in gross violation of existing regulations despite that it was made mandatory to get the hazard clearance certificate from originating country fresh scrap imports, sources said. They added that the scrap was being released on letters and certificates from exporters claiming that plastic scrap destined for Pakistan is non-hazardous.The sources said the custom authorities responsible for allowing these violations should be held accountable for their action.

In addition, the sources said, the bulk of hazardous plastic scrap originates from the Middle Eastern countries. The January 2013 plastic scrap import data reveals that 47 per cent came from Saudi Arabia (which continues to be the single largest scrap exporter to Pakistan), 12 per cent from UAE and seven per cent from Bahrain.

The import policy of Pakistan states that scrap can only be imported by the manufacturers for their own use subject to the condition that they shall furnish to the customs authorities a certificate from relevant government agency of the exporting countries that the goods are not hazardous and comply with the provisions of the Basel Convention.

Pakistan imports all kinds of plastic scrap including sewerage and drainage pipes, medical and clinical waste, cable insulation, bottles, food containers, packaging film etc 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.

The sources confirmed that in the past scrap was released on certification by the Pakistani office of an international pre-shipment inspection company. However, they claimed, it doesn’t have the capability to carry out tests to certify whether the product is hazardous or not as per Basel convention. They said the pre-shipment inspection company only carried out visual inspection and drew conclusion based on Gama readings, which are inappropriate forms of analysis.

“It's high time that the Government of Pakistan takes a position on hazardous scrap import by approaching these countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, to curb dumping of hazardous scrap in Pakistan and also hold those responsible for persistently violating the import policy accountable,” a source said.

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