One of the great problems generated by the massive consumption of plastic materials is that of the tons that accumulate in the oceans and that remain for decades without their destruction being possible, polluting the waters, damaging species and even entering the chain food. But it is not the only problem. There is another increasingly serious, and it is the chain of environmental crimes in the form of dumping and fires of plastic material that is officially recycled, but in reality, the Administrations get rid of it without considering the consequences.
Since in 2018 China closed its doors to the plastic garbage that many countries especially Europe, exported to its territory, its recycling has been done in a murky way and outside the law.
According to a report released by Interpol based on data from 40 countries, fires and illegal dumping have become common in the countries of origin or in some Asians that have tried to absorb that Chinese market without achieving it efficiently and legally. Spain is one of the European countries where these crimes have grown, along with France, Italy, and Sweden, all of them former exporters of plastic waste to China.
Almost 200 countries reformed the Basel Convention in 2019, which regulates the traffic of garbage, and pledged to monitor the correct separation and classification of materials prior to shipment.
The reality is that, after the Chinese bolt, countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have taken over thousands of garbage containers that sometimes carry harmful waste and do not always have the capacity to process.
Only 9% of the plastic produced since 1950 has been recycled, and the problem can only grow. The annual world production was 335 million tons in 2016. The non-ecological way of consuming in the West and the culture of disposing of and looking the other way after disposing of plastic material is at the root of the problems.
European countries, including Spain – the ninth in the world that sends the most waste outside its borders and have the duty to combat these harmful habits, to fight for a reduction in plastics and, also, to actively participate in recycling that facilitates separation, prevent toxic waste, and prevent environmental crime.
Countries with less sanitary and environmental controls cannot suffer the consequences of the laziness of the developed ones. Sending them that garbage uncontrollably may remove it from sight, but it will only transfer that pest to other more defenseless populations. In a global world, the solutions are not to move problems around, but to address them and the countries concerned know how to respond to them.