Free Trade Zones

Latin America shouldn’t be the ‘backyard’ where US plastic waste is thrown, activists say


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Latin America does not want plastic waste from the United States.


As data shows US plastic exports to some countries in the region more than doubled in 2020, more than 70 organizations around the world have called for an end to the trade and for the US to deal with its own waste. .

“The cross-border trade in plastic waste is perhaps one of the most harmful expressions of the commercialization of common goods and of the colonial occupation of the territories of the geopolitical south to transform them into zones of sacrifice”, Fernanda Soliz, director of the health zone at Simón Bolívar University, Ecuador, said in the letter. “Latin America and the Caribbean is not America’s backyard. We are sovereign territories, and we demand respect for the rights of Nature and our peoples.

The data, released by members of the Global Alliance for Alternatives to Incinerators (GAIA) in Latin America from Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile, was based on the U.S. Free Database. -international exchange, USA Trade Online. He revealed that between January and August 2020, the United States exported 44,173 tons of plastic waste to 15 countries in Latin America. This represents at least 35 containers of plastic waste arriving in the region daily.

The countries that imported the most waste in the first eight months of 2020 were Mexico with 32,650 tonnes, El Salvador with 4,054 tonnes and Ecuador with 3,665 tonnes. In addition, the waste is not classified in detail when it is imported, which makes it difficult to trace it.

The international community has been paying more attention to the fate of plastic waste shipped overseas since China banned exports in 2018, as the letter points out.

“Globally, shipping plastic waste from big powers such as the United States, the world’s largest exporter of plastic waste, to countries with weak legislation and controls,” the authors wrote. signatories.

Despite being the largest exporter of plastic waste, the United States has not signed the Plastics Amendment to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. In the deal, reached in May 2019, countries pledged to reduce the flow of plastic waste from rich countries to less developed countries that lack the infrastructure to dispose of it properly, reported The Guardian.

The amendment gives local governments the right to say yes or no to any waste shipped from developed countries to private companies in the developing world. This means that Latin American governments also have a role to play in rejecting American waste.

“Regional governments fail in two ways: the first is customs inspections because we don’t really know what is going into the country under the guise of recycling, and they also fail in their commitments with international agreements such as the Basel Convention. », Spokesperson for GAIA. Camila Aguilera told the Guardian.

The signatories of the letter make the following requests:

    1. Latin American and Caribbean countries should adopt legislation to implement the plastic amendment of the Basel Convention.
    2. Authorities should make the importation of plastic more transparent and better regulated.
    3. Customs records should detail the type and status of plastic waste entering Latin America.
    4. Free trade and other agreements should prioritize the protection of communities and territories.

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